Thursday, September 29, 2011


A gentleman at the gym today made a comment that gave me a warm glow - he said that I was always upbeat, always ready with a kind word.

Back when I had a day job it was interesting, come yearly review time. It was like there were only so many words of praise that could be used in reviewing a given set of employees. Like they were budgeted. I suspect the concern was that employees who were told they had done well would immediately demand big raises. Well folks, there really aren’t many big raises for the rank and file in this economic environment. And, with the prevailing attitude on handing out kudos - heck, there aren’t many employees that will likely get glowing reviews. Or praise that they deserve. Pity.

Hopefully the company I worked for was not the norm - given the fact they declared bankruptcy a bit over a year after I left, they clearly didn’t have all the answers. But, one area where they really missed the boat was giving people encouragement.

Telling someone when they are doing something really well takes a bit of nerve - lord knows none of us want to seem like we are trying to come on to someone - or trying to stick our nose where it doesn’t belong. And, in truth, sometimes the first kind word results in a bit of a confused look. But, second or third time it is amazing to see folk just light up when they realize someone is actually talking to them, and giving them words of encouragement. And, in as much as I look like I work out - I suppose it might mean a little more when I encourage folk not quite as fit as myself.

Encouragement, kind words, positive comments on the way people are doing an exercise - or even praise for doing something that is clearly a stretch. These things don’t cost us anything - we really won’t run out of good words for others. And, with the exception of the risk that someone might think we have an ulterior motive, there really are not many negatives associated with trying to make others feel a little important - feel good being recognized for what they are doing.

Heck, every time on of my work out buds, Randy, strikes a muscle-man pose to tell me I am looking ripped - it really does make me feel great. Even if I still look like a 160 pound wimp. It really does make a difference. Thank you Randy!

This is one of the new fawns in our neighborhood earlier in the year - so very tiny - perhaps 15 inches tall! He's bigger now, and really likes to eat strawberry plants.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Be all that you can be

This posting is going to digress a bit - to focus on my workout today. By now you have figured out that working out is a significant part of my world. Each day of the week has a specific focus - today was leg day. All of my exercises are built around what I perceive as the needs of someone who wants to keep on doing all they can - so a focus on functional fitness, and especially on core strength and balance.

I typically start a workout with 30 minutes on a stationary bicycle - warming up, loosening up, and getting in a bit of aerobic exercise. Michael, my 19 year old work out bud, gets there soon after I finish on the bicycle and we get into the day's weight routine. And, as far as routines go, todays was pretty much routine - took nearly 2 hours and we had worked our legs hard.

Often when we are done with our daily routine we will do some chin-ups, pull-ups and the like - to finish the day. Today there was a young man, John, doing some interesting chin-ups - so we went and spent 45 minutes showing him different routines, and learning some from him - throwing in a number of interesting push-up routines as well. We hadn’t met John before, but he was clearly as excited about new examples of these body-weight exercises as we are. Somehow I am pretty sure I can not get across how heady it was to be working out with two very fit young men, getting a chance to show them really novel exercises, and being able not only to keep up with them, but to outdo them. Picture, if you can, this old man doing pushups on two of the inflatable exercise balls - toes on one ball, hands on the other. And doing pushups. Or, toes on medicine balls (one medicine ball per foot) and hands on a third medicine ball. OK, that one still has some “growth opportunity”. Or, levering legs from a simple pull-up position until legs are straight up in the air above the body, and then doing reverse chin-ups.

I was recently talking to another older gentleman who has seen some of my routines - his comment “I would never be able to do some of those exercises”. Trust me, 3 years ago I would never, ever think that I could balance as I do now. But, 5 days a week, and 3 years and now I am getting to show people 1/3 my age how to do really great exercises.

Satisfaction, social contact, exercise, ego support - days like this leave me so pumped it is truly unbelievable.

One day soon I will have to discuss my target audience for these postings. Today’s is focused on everyone who doesn’t believe they can do really amazing exercises. What is the recruiting slogan - “Be all that you can be”. Not wanting to sound trite - but hard exercise will change your life. If you are not fit, work into it slowly - but do it. We really are fighting for our lives!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Retirement - Skills

I was thinking this morning about retirement while I was stretching. Thinking about one of my basic tenants - that we must never stop learning. The aspect I was ruminating as I tried to bend over and touch the floor (with a cat jumping onto my back as I bent over - said cat then proceeding to kneed my upper back - not sure how he learned to do that, but good kitty!) was the range of things I enjoy doing. Electrical, automotive, sewing, stained glass, bread making, woodworking, antique restoration, clock repair, and a whole lot more - it is an interesting and eclectic list. Looking back I can now see that I kept right on picking up new skills each time I came up against a need. Yes, each time I could have taken the easy way out, and paid someone to fix whatever needed fixed. But, somehow, most times I chose to address the issue myself. Which, each time, meant getting out a book (or the internet now) and learning. The story of my first engine overhaul started at the library with a McGraw-Hill book on auto mechanics. And hey, there really were pistons inside that large piece of cast iron hiding under the hood of my 1955 Mercury. And one of them had a hole where holes are not supposed to be.

A “Renaissance Man” is a person who has acquired profound knowledge or proficiency in more than one field. Why is this important - I can see at least three reasons. First - when something breaks it is so much more cost effective if you can fix it yourself. I talked to one retired couple here who were very impressed by their handyman - why, he only charged them $75 an hour, and he can fix anything! Nuff said on that?

Second - I believe that most of us will need a “retirement career” so we can afford to live to a ripe old age. It is so much easier to choose a second career if one has developed a range of skills to draw on. And it is best if that something fascinates one while making it possible to earn money and providing social interaction - in short, a good life. And, if you have already mastered a skill you probably know if you enjoy it. I really pity folk who retire, decide what they want to do, get all the training, and then find they really don’t enjoy doing it.

Third - satisfaction, and happiness come from doing - and being able to do a wide variety of things really does make for a lot of happiness.

The more proficiencies you develop before you retire (I had typed “when you are young” instead of “before you retire”, but hopefully you will get to retire before you get old) the more options you will have for your post-retirement occupation.

And the less stress you will feel each time something breaks or quits working since you can, and really should know how to fix it.

The photo shows Max chewing on my ear. He has fortunately quit doing that, and now gives me back massages when I stretch.

Monday, September 26, 2011

My Retirement Job

About 20 years ago, when I began realizing that restoring cars was really not a way to make money, I started evaluating my options. At that point I was getting into clock restoration, not with any view of one day doing it to make money, but because I wanted this lovely little clock to run and it was just not in the mood. And, taking it back to the shop where I had bought it 8 times didn’t convince it to behave.

As I began to figure out I liked working on clocks I met a gentleman in the UK who was able to buy British long-case clocks (grandfather clocks to you) at auction in the south of England. By funding him, and developing the skills necessary to move funds to the UK, and to arrange ocean transport, I had the basis for a small antique clock business.

Don’t get me wrong - when I started thinking about long term options I had a lot of things to choose from - making furniture, or stained glass windows, or things in leather, teaching, becoming a personal trainer or a number of other hobbies that could be used to generate income. Even at that point I was thinking about how I could start up a second career - one focused on a hobby I really enjoyed.

Which is why, 20 years ago, I started shifting hobbies. I had no idea that I was going to go as far as I did, but I started getting into old clocks – learning to fix them, buying a few tools, and discovering I really liked working on really small mechanisms. And restoring lovely old clock cases. And writing technical articles on the techniques I use. And teaching others how to repair phenomenal old clocks. All this because an old clock I bought wouldn’t run.

I also started selling cars that I would not ever restore.

I’m not known for doing anything in a small way. This hobby has turned into a wonderful retirement avocation that just happens to generate a bit of income.

Message here – in today’s world, saving for retirement translates to deciding what you are going to do when you retire that will bring in money. My wife and I don’t plan to touch our retirement savings for another 15 or 20 years (God willing) because both of us have shifted into fields that we love.

Rather than finding what you want to do after you have been let go, it is so much more effective to have a plan in place, a business in operation, so that you can approach your “retirement” with an effective path for your next 20 years, doing your own thing – something you enjoy – and hopefully something that makes money.

While I shifted my spare time away from restoring cars, I did keep the lovely little XKE coupe shown above - in front of a covered bridge south of here in Oregon.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Making money from something you love

Many people today talk about, and worry about having enough money to retire. I did a Google search on “afford to retire”. Over 17 million hits.

Lord knows, something this popular, there must be something there to worry about.

Years ago I restored cars in my spare time. Actually, my first car was towed home behind my dads pickup and I spent 2 years getting it where I could drive it. That is what you do when you buy a car for $30. But, I learned a lot, a massive amount. After college I got into restoring old cars. It had to have been a hobby, because restoring cars is not a good way to make money – unless someone is paying you to do it. Then you are a mechanic, a body man, a painter, or an upholsterer – or all 4. And, if you want to work for someone in one of these trades after you retire - that works.

I did ground-up restorations on several really lovely cars that were later sold. And realized that, while I didn’t loose money, I only earned perhaps a dime an hour. WHICH IS FINE! Unless you want to retire. At least, for me, the issue was making money while still holding a day job, and perhaps building something up so I would have a “retirement income” from my hobby. All with a focus on in fact being able one day to retire.

Don’t get me wrong, I have a friend who started a vintage restoration shop because he loves racing old cars – he has very qualified people working for him, and they crank out cars that compete at Pebble Beach. If that is your idea of working on cars – great – a shop like that can make money. But, most of us will never get to that point, or make much money out of our restorations either.

Great quote out there - it’s easy to make a small fortune when restoring cars, just start with a large fortune.

My point with this pointing is that I wanted to have something in place that I really really enjoyed doing before I retired. And, I also wanted this something to provide a semblance of an income.

Tomorrow I will talk about what worked for me when I was given the chance to retire.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Social Interaction

Another quote from “Younger Next Year”: "Hey, I've got a neat idea! Let's go down to the gym and lift incredibly heavy weights until it hurts like crazy and we have to stop!"

When Michael (19 year old soccer player) and I get into working out we are like a couple of kids – each trying to outdo the other. OK, a little unbalanced, he is only 19, poor guy really doesn’t have a chance, but he is gaining. Fast.

Many days after our 90 minutes of weight training we are both so pumped we do a couple of quick sets of chin-ups.

We both really, really get into working out – and a large part of that is the camaraderie we share. And the satisfaction.

Before I retired Kelly was concerned about my need for social interaction, and how I would satisfy my need for interacting with people after I quit the 9 to 5. Fortunately my rather extensive clock fascination gives me a lot of contact with others who either want to buy an antique clock or who love to work on them. But, even with all that interaction, my daily dose of people-time at the gym has become my primary social reality. Of course, that also means I have to be outgoing, talk to people, and work out hard enough that people want to talk to me – to get pointers, or motivation.

Talking to another guy at the gym, big guy, very strong, the type you would not want to cross, he almost waxed poetic when he was talking about how fundamentally good he feels when he is working out.

I said almost poetic – he doesn’t look like the type that would want to be described as a poet.

My message here is pretty simple - old, young, in between: Work out, and, in the process, build a social network at your gym so that working out becomes a satisfying element in your life. Of course, if you wait till you retire to start working out you will have the chance to see truly amazing improvements. Just be very careful as you get started to keep from damaging joints, muscles and ligaments that haven’t had to work for a long time.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


Some months ago I met a lovely lady at my gym - Chrisetta - who has been fighting, and winning her battle with obesity for several years now.  And then wouldn’t you know it, she is knocked down in a parking lot and ends up with a broken tibia.

I was amazed when I saw her back at the gym in a wheel chair, just wanting to be there, to be around all the positive energy that flows from people working out.  One day she just didn’t seem to be her usual bundle of energy - and in fact, she admitted that she was a bit down - in fact, she was talking to another lady about the challenge of not being able to work out like she used to.

When I walked up I listened for a bit, then butted in, as I am all too prone to do, and told her that all that mattered was that she do what she could.  And then I wandered off and did my thing.  Perhaps a week later she told me that she had taken that bit of advice to heart and was feeling a lot better about herself and her time at the gym.  In fact, she dubbed me "Dewie", as in "Do what you can".

Since then she has started into a motivational speaking career, been on TV, featured in newspapers and even teaching healthy cooking classes.  And now I am Dewey.

I thought this was perhaps an appropriate message for today - after my mini-rant at the end of yesterdays post: "start working out today.  Keep working out, at least 5 days a week, from now on - and you will win the fight for your life!"

No, I don’t expect you to do 40 chin-ups any time soon - or pushups or whatever.  I just hope you will "do what you can", every day, so you can join me in this fight for your life!

Please visit Chrisetta’s blog - tell her Dewey sent you.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Working Out

Talking to a guy the other day in the gym – 29 years old, hasn't worked out for 8 years, and now is thinking he really needs to get back to it.  He said something I thought was rather profound:  "Don’t wait till you retire to start doing the things you hope to do when you retire".  While this applies to a wide range of activities, the one I would like to focus on is exercise.

The book "Younger Next Year" ( a book I highly recommend, provided you can overlook a bit of male chauvinism – OK, maybe a lot of male chauvinism) discusses the way that physical exercise triggers waves of "grow" messages throughout your body and mind.  If you send the right messages, your body sends out messages by the billions, making you stronger, more agile, smarter, more able to take hard knocks.

And, the rather obvious corollary – if you don’t work out your body does not get stronger, it "grows" weaker.

This reminds me of a truism quoted by Lou Holtz, a well known football coach:  "You are either growing or dying:  The minute we try to maintain, we start dying".

You know, I could have captioned my blog "Fighting for your life".  It’s not about maintenance, it’s about getting stronger.  But, if you wait till you are retired to start the process you will be starting with a body that has been slowly dying for a long time.  The battle at that point is truly daunting – especially if the damage you have done includes sufficient degradation to you joints and bones that serious exercise is no longer an option.

Bottom line, start working out today.  Keep working out, at least 5 days a week, from now on - and you will win the fight for your life!


Monday, September 19, 2011

Working Out

My number one, each day, source of satisfaction (happiness) is working out. As I mentioned in a previous ramble, I view working out as something I have given myself as a present – a present for retiring – an entitlement if you will. For me, after working out at my current gym for a year, working out is a chance toget positive reinforcement – a big element of satisfaction, let me tell you.  It is amazing to me how many people are there, giving me positive strokes. Young guys calling me over and showing me what they can do – trying to impress me! Hey, I’m 57 – and teens and 20 year olds care what I think. Gads! Talk about an ego boost?  Or, even more so, when these same youngsters tell me they aren’t even going to try an exercise I have been perfecting. They don’t want to be embarrassed. I can assure you, I positively glow for the next hour.  Even if my current work-out bud (a 19 year old) tells me that the first time he saw me he figured me for just another old guy at the gym. Whilst I will never be a body builder, I can still get ridiculous amounts of happiness from working out.

A quote from a book I am reading on bodybuilding, "Vegan Bodybuilding & Fitness" - "Bodybuilding gives you something meaningful to work toward everyday"  This struck home with me - and is a part of why working out is so important - at the end of every workout I take home a feeling of accomplishment - satisfaction - happiness.

Working out = social interaction = self-image enhancement = personal accomplishments = healthy body = huge happiness.

Can you do what I do – 40 chin-ups, uhhh, ok, maybe not. But, can you start down a path that will make all the difference in your life? YES!

Satisfaction comes from doing. So many people say they want to be happy. All I can do is share what makes my world wonderful. Funny thing, working out, and practicing an instrument – work – makes me happy!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Satisfaction and Happiness

Happiness.   I find that thoughts on happiness are a recurrent theme as I think about my retirement. Sometimes I try to understand why I am so bloody happy. Have I always been happy?  No.  I can recall times that I let stresses get to me.  I have a beginning of a list of things to make one happy. Lack of stress. Hmmm. Not sure that flies. Because, even now, I have self-induced stresses – like my appointed hour each weekday that I practice the hammered dulcimer. Or my arrival time at the gym. Sometimes these result in other things being put off, or they mean I have to push to get where I need to be. Stress.

Perhaps lack of bad, or destructive stress is what I should emphasize?

But, the happiness biggie for me is the concept of satisfaction.

OK – so, satisfaction – I have a friend who loves to find “steals” that would be worth “big bucks” if he resold them. But he doesn’t, so his house and his lady friend’s house are filling up with steals. And he is genuinely not a happy person. Hasn’t managed to buy happiness. Hmmm – a point here?

Enough digression (earth to Stephen – get to the point): My thought this A.M. (the result of a discussion with my 19 year-old work out bud Michael yesterday) is that satisfaction requires doing. See, you can’t be satisfied unless you have done something to be satisfied with.  I find my reason for getting up each morning is the knowledge that I will be doing things that bring me satisfaction – playing the dulcimer, working out, restoring an antique cabinet to hold cameras and lenses…  Heck, this morning I cleaned up several spots on the carpet where our cats have decided it was appropriate to deposit fur balls – each time I walk by those spots for the next week or so I will get a warm glow knowing I did something good.

Happiness – satisfaction – two recurring themes for this blog.  One based on the other, and both based on doing things.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Frustration - and Coping

When I feel frustrated by something I find myself reflecting on how much I have
improved my body, or how much I love the music I now play, or perhaps 20 other sources of satisfaction, and end up feeling pretty darned good about myself. These two “entitlements” have generated achievements that make my life satisfying.  And, in the process, help to keep me from getting hung up on frustrations that come along.

My point?  I believe we all need to realize, to hard-wire into our psyche the reality that satisfaction, which equates to happiness, comes from doing – not from sitting on ones backside. And then, when things don't go our way, we can lessen the frustrations by acknowledging the positive results we
are achieving in other areas.  OK, perhaps another form of lying to oneself – but the goal here is to keep from getting dragged down when something doesn’t go the way we want.

I suspect satisfaction is going to be a recurring theme in my writing – you’ve
heard the expression “curiosity killed the cat”. Interestingly this in only the
first part of an interesting truism – the second part is “satisfaction brought
it back”. Like the cat, we all need to go for the satisfaction.

Lying to oneself – hmmm – if it means convincing oneself that working out and
practicing a musical instrument are what we are going to do – I’m all for it.


Lying to oneself – another example:  I told myself, when I was doing the 8 to 5 routine (30 years as an engineer) that working out was what I did everyday for me. Every day. For me – not for someone else. And, whilst true, the corollary was the import thing – No one was going to take it away from me. Everyday I worked out at lunch. Which meant I
missed a lot of the noon group-sessions with people whose waist lines grew every year. Don’t get me wrong, I was not a body builder or anything like that – I was just a skinny engineer who was reasonably fit. And who had a reputation for not “doing lunch”. Hurt my career – likely. Hurt my fitness – like NO!

And today – when I retired 3 years ago, I gave myself a couple of presents. One was
the right to work out 2 hours each day (OK – I take the weekends off to recover, and kayak, and ride a bicycle).  Another was taking up bread making - no, not with a bread machine, with a mixer and a bunch of books.  And, lastly, getting to learn to play the hammered dulcimer. If one looks at such things as a right – as something we entitle ourselves to do – an entitlement – and then we treat them as rights or entitlements (as in not letting silly things get in their way) – at least for me, I have a better chance of keeping them going.

And, hey, if one does in fact keep them going, one can actually do a really great
job of improving ones strength and physique, eating designer bread (as I type the house is filled with the scent of two herb breads that just went in the oven) as well as making beautiful music!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Motivation - Lying to myself

I have been told by many that we can not motivate others – and I agree. But, we
can discuss what tools we use to keep ourselves where we want to be, and hope
others find something that works.

This is a random meander through my thoughts on motivation as I stretched
this morning.

OK then, let’s start with motivation for stretching: I feel better when I get

Really short term that. And effective.

When I was in college I made a rule – I did not have to study evenings on days that I
took a test. OK – made it pretty important to get homework done ahead of time,
but being able to go visit my lady friend (who was at another university some
35 miles away) was a strong motivator. And, with time, I came to look forward
to taking tests. See – “test” equaled “quality time with my lady friend”.
Coming to view tests as a positive thing has served me extremely well – it is
amazing how much better one does when one is not nervous about a test – is in
fact excited about the test.

So, while my first example reflects being honest with oneself (you really will feel
better if you start your day with stretches) my second involves a bit of
prevarication – overall it was sometimes a real challenge to make my test night
off rule work – but it made me look forward to taking tests. And resulted in
better grades.

I call this my lying to myself rule. Or maybe just misleading myself - convincing myself that I really like to take tests.

More on motivation tomorrow…

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Welcome to my world

OK – the blog name was not my idea, it came from my nephew.  And, to say the least, I am not perfect.  But, I’m going with it because I think it gets a point across:  If (one day or even now) you have to be old – be the best darned “old” that you can!

This blog is the result of my interactions with others, and the realization that there are a lot of really good people who just aren't into the concept of aging.  Do I want to get old?  Yes, a resounding YES – because the other option involves being dead.  Given inevitability of aging the only good choice is to do it with verve – lead the pack, and help everyone you can along the way.

Who is this guy – I am a retired engineer who started planning the retirement from my day job perhaps 15 years before actually finding myself in a position where I could live without my day job.  The recurrent theme in my “retirement”, my fascination I suppose, is how satisfied I am with where my wife and I have ended up in our lives.  This, I suppose, brings me around to the focus of this blog – being satisfied with, and finding happiness in life.

With time I hope you can share some of the happiness I gain on a daily basis from the things I do – from the satisfaction I get from doing – and, hopefully I can learn from you along the way.  Don’t get me wrong, I will be talking about an active, informed lifestyle, not a sedentary, sit back and be satisfied about the past existence.  We (as in you and I) will be focused on what we do every day to get the personal satisfaction that doing things can bring.

My wife is a PhD chemist who, when she finished her corporate career, chose to become a nurse.  She and I read a great deal, with a focus on health, diet, exercise, and the ongoing developments in these and related fields.  We don’t have a TV.  We attempt, with our combined training and experience, to make sense of the torrent of information available today on aging and health, and to incorporate that which makes sense for us.

We both work out a lot – me, 2 hours a day, 5 times a week. Kelly– 6 or 7 times a week, an average of 45 minutes per session.

And we both have a commitment to being happy.

Please consider this a personal invitation to joins us in our quest for happiness.