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Not to 50 – Part V… Not to 55? Yup.


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[Author note: I did skip the blog post “Not to 50 – Part IV – Saving the Planet One Yogurt Container at a Time” because I wanted to use the “Not to 55” instead! Part IV will post next week.]

Not to 55 on ice!  

So, my adopted hometown of Bellingham and surrounds has been a bit under the weather like many of my students, coworkers, friends and family. We got hit by a gorgeous ice-storm. Then snow came down over the top of the ice.

On Saturday, my youngest daughter had two performances at the District Solo & Ensemble playing the violin. One Solo. One Ensemble. Got to the Solo part early. She nailed it. The adjudicator seemed familiar. After getting a mini lesson in how to hold the bow better, the adjudicator looks at me and says, you look familiar. Sharyn Peterson from Skagit County’s Peterson Conservatory of Music & Arts. She played at the Skagit River Shakespeare Festival‘s annual fundraiser back when I was President of Shakespeare NorthWest! Cool. Definitely another Small World experience.

So, I bathed in the praise of my daughter’s success, we head home, I sat down and wrote a few hundred more words and did some more laundry—the exciting life of an author.

[Author note: Warning. Switch to first person present tense writing to echo the tension in the tale!]

Then I head back out for the ensemble portion. Having maneuvered the roads on the way out, I’m a little bit overconfident. Blasé?

I head out, turn onto the two-lane Guide Meridian, driving north. I’m keeping it around 55 mph in the usual 60 mph zone. Slush on the sides of the road and some in the suicide lane.

I pass a pickup that pulled into my lane going slow. Now he’s behind me and staying close. I pull into the suicide turn lane to turn left at the light for the Solo/Ensemble contest. I press on the brakes.

Nothing happens.

I press harder and feel the brakes not grabbing.

Not slowing down.

There’s a car already waiting at the light to turn.

Will the light change?

Still braking, tapping now.

Hand on the e-brake.

Oncoming traffic is in the distance, a fire-truck and an ambulance.

No kidding. No slowing…

I can pull into the oncoming lane and skate past the stopped car.

And pray that there is no one having trouble stopping on Laurel for the red light.

The pickup truck behind me whips past.

No one behind him.

I jerk back into the fast lane and cruise through the intersection.

The light is still green.

I pull into the gas station the other side of Laurel well in front of the oncoming emergency vehicles.

Holy cow adrenalized!

I drive slowly and sedately through the parking lot, pull onto Laurel. No one is coming and the car is still sitting at the turn signal on Meridian.

Glad for steady nerves, quick reflexes and a bit of luck.

My daughter is waiting for the fourth, a violist, to her quartet. The three of them are practicing, nervous. Will their teacher have to play the viola part? No. The fourth quarter arrives. Maybe she was in the car at the light.

I don’t tell my daughter until after her performance I was probably more wired than she was.

When I get home I slip on the stairs, catching myself before I tumble. A bruised shin is all I’ll have to show for my day’s careless behavior. I vow to be safe on the streets when I head to Village Books this afternoon for the Ownership change party!

Be safe people. It’s slippery out there. 


Not to 50 – Part III – Terrible, Horrible, Actually Okay Day.


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[Thought I posted this two weeks ago. Not sure that my memorey is any worse, but it sure isn’t doing well. At least I know that the good old days weren’t always good, and certainly not even mostly good for many.]

Today was one of those days. A terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. You know, like Alexander’s. You’ve read the book. 

I got up, uncomfortable with pain in my shoulder and head. I sat down to write and didn’t get a whole lot of coherent words out. I did spend 60 minutes contemplating the novel and ‘writing’ more than 500 words of fictions, plotting, questions and goobledy-gook.

Made it to school on time. 100% on-time this year. All four days so far. Also 100% at exceeding 609 new words a day. Today’s were sketchy and a stretch. But I’ve got them in at 5:51. Now adding to the total with some non-fiction for the blog.

Today, I spilled coffee into my computer keyboard. Admittedly it already had sticky keys that had nothing to do with coffee, but still. It took me 12 minutes to figure out how to log in and turn on the on-screen keyboard. Other foibles filled the day including blue pen streaks under my nose. But in the end, as I told my Spanish class after dropping my water bottle (it didn’t break), despite all the hassles, I was still happy.

Like Alexander, who in the end realizes that he’s pretty darn lucky to have what he has, I am lucky. Some of my luck is from working hard. As I heard Kevin J. Anderson say, “The harder I work the luckier I get.” I have a great job with good benefits, a wonderful partner, family, and friends, reasonably decent health [except for steady headaches for the last couple weeks], hobbies I am passionate about, and time to enjoy all of them.

But some of the luck is being born a white, admittedly lower middle class, male, when there was a significant middle class in America. I am trying to understand in 2017. I am trying to learn about the issues folks without that bit of luck have to face. Then I hope to be able to take actions that ensure that I leave this planet better than I found it. 

“Not to 50” is  said ironically. I am happy to be turning 50 next month and feel like I’m finally coming into my own with abilities and knowledge, a voice to speak up as a patriot for true American values, that really should be human values, “That all [people] have inalienable rights…” We need “to go where no one has gone before” to seek out this new world.

Happy new year! May 2017 be better than we all expect it to be!

Not to 50 – Part II: “My deep and abiding interest in pain.”


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File:Arm posterior.jpgBeen “feeling mostly dead all day” recently… realizing that I need to take better care of the only body I’m likely to occupy. I’ve already talked about the gradual degradation of my eye sight and the challenge that brings. I’m very good at losing things [which also makes me good at finding things, but oh, the time I waste.] so glasses are hard to hold onto.

To misquote Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Consistency is the foolish hobgoblin of my mind.” I have trouble focusing. No, really? Easily distractible? That’s me. Not always a bad thing. I’m NEVER bored. But, oh shiny, I flit. Why was I talking about consistency? Oh, the human body at 49…

My body has served me well, I’m happy with it. Well, I would really like Alopecia Areata to give me back my eyebrows and eyelashes, but that’s minor. I’ve grown out of most of my childhood health problems: allergies, asthma and the related bouts with pneumonia. Those isses have been replaced by a few repetitive issues as I approach 50 years of occupation.

I have always been extremely right handed. I’m a writer, right hand with pen or pencil, both hands with a computer, plus right hand for the mouse. I’m a teacher. Grading papers with the tools mentioned above, plus writing on a whiteboard/chalkboard. Right hand. Other hobbies: primary cook for my family for the last 30 years. Right handed knife work, mixing/blending, cracking eggs, flipping pancakes… I also play guitar. Most of the muscle work? Right handed. Six kids over 19 years. Carrying car-seats with babies inside. Tendancy? Right-handed.

So at some point in the last 15 years, my body said enough! Repetitive Stress Injury. Right shoulder adhesion around the shoulder blade. It could be worse. I could have actual rotator cuff issues. Thank goodness, I don’t. So, I’ve done physical therapy. I switched to a left handed mouse. I use the right handed mouse set-up. That way when I am working on a student computer, or someone else’s computer I can just switch sides. That helped. A lot. When I forget and use my right side for the mouse. My shoulder hurts within five minutes! I tried learning how to write left-handed on the whiteboard. My handwriting has gotten fairly legible that way, but my right shoulder still engages, so it only helps a little. And it takes longer. So, when I am teaching a class like Spanish that requires taking advantage of questions that help understand the language, I need to be able to put it on the board where students can see it. Sigh…

So, at the moment my shoulder is aching. I have a new doctor’s orders for physical therapy. Now if only I can do the exercises. Along with my shoulder, I was also diagnosed with plantar fasciitis on my right heel. What can I do about it? Ice. Stretch the muscles that run up the back of my legs. How to do this? Consistent stretching. The number of folks who have suggested yoga to me recently continues to grow. I’m going to try it, though I worry that, like everything else, the habits required for success seem to escape me.

My recommendations. Don’t wait until you’re almost 50 to start taking care of your body. It hurts. 😉

Food, glorious food, hot sausage and….


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Well, maybe not mustard. But as Oliver, Dodger and the boys sang in Oliver!, food can be the stuff of dreams…

Last night I made my second round of homemade pizza crust this month, matching it up against Trader Joe’s pre-made dough. The result? Pretty excellent. Three weeks ago, the first batch was good. The Sicilian was a little chewy on the bottom, but was just about perfect reheated the day after. The Napolitano crust was better, but not the best that I had made.

This time, I added a bit more yeast and only made the Napolitano crust. It was most excellent. I’ve got two racks of pizza stones placed close together and heated the oven to 550 degrees for about 45 minutes before hand. Cooking time is about 7-8 minutes, but I still need to play around with getting the bottom crust a little better done. I think maybe cooking directly on the stone rather than on a screen might do the trick. But the means I need a pizza peel, the giant spatula to top the pizza on and then put it in the oven. I’m thinking that if I get one, I’ll try making the pies a little smaller, which will give me more opportunity to test.

So, I forgot to take pictures in progress last night, and the really awesome ones I took of the first time around went into the ether when my phone stopped working… So, in a couple of weeks, I’ll try it again and take pictures in progress…

Buon appetito!

A New Leaf – Day 31


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409 Days Dry.

So I have successfully passed the first month dry with only a sip of beer to taste. Only one hard day in the bunch. As I reflect back, stopping drinking this time is more pre-emptive than last time. Though I probably had a drink most everyday over winter break, I did not drink to excess, but once. And considering the figurative kick in the gut the universe gave my family, that was not a surprise. But considering the sadness and darkness of my thoughts, I decided not drinking was a better way through. And I know, The only way out is through…

The other primary reason to firmly establish my own control over alcohol is perhaps unrelated. My writing, creativity and desire to be more productive. Since the previous long-dry stretch had culminated in a very productive writing period–80,000 words in 60 days–I wondered if not drinking had been a factor.

I’m already sleeping better. Two separate medical folks who saw me a month ago commented on how healthy I looked. I’m not feeling any more productive in terms of writing new words, but I am getting a lot of things done to sort of clear the deck. I’ve lost 3-5 pounds and feel like clothes are fitting me better.

Unfortunately, though I would like to get back into exercising, my bruised heel has been slowing me down. I’ve had a few good days of brisk walking, but the day after is painful. So, I am icing to see if I can get over this injury.

My house is cleaner than it’s been, I’ve been cooking from scratch more, and I have finished a few projects. More on these subjects in a later blogpost. Oh, and also some non-alcohol, non/low-caffeine drinks invented, named and/or reviewed.

A New Leaf – Day 1


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409 Days Dry

Several years ago I had developed a pretty serious drink problem. I was drinking every day and significant amounts. I think I could probably drink a whole bottle of wine by myself and when I came up on a friends big birthday, I went and bought four bottles 750 hard liquor because I was going to buy one and if you bought four you got $12 off. No brainer, right? Well, a week later when I was heading to see him with his bottle? The other three were gone. I have a Bacardi beanie hat to remind me of that. So whenever I look in the closet for gloves or a cold-weather hat for my bald head, I think of that series of choices.

So I spent 400 days dry from Thanksgiving 2011 until New Year’s Eve 2012, I think. I started out intending to write a book about it as I went along and share the cool alt-tails I created. I think I wrote something about as long as this post, added a few drink recipes and then quit. It wasn’t as important as quitting the alcohol. But the idea did not come to fruition. So for 400 hundred days I had only two or three sips of wine.

During that 400 days, I finished my third novel, the first and second times! Then I started again. A bit at a time 1-2 glasses, 1-2 times a week. I stopped buying boxes of wine. Red wine is my drink of choice, so there are some health benefits to limited use. That was fairly easy, though it quickly slipped to 2-3 times a week. Over the last two years, there have been times when my consumption became a topic of conversation with my counselor.

I also learned that there is a seriously larger incidence of alcoholism in people who drank early and binged. I had my first full beer at my cousin’s wedding in Scotland the same weekend Prince Charles and Lady Diana got married. I was 14 and probably weighed about 90 pounds. They tell me I woke up with a smile and that I turned down a second pint the night before. Which leads me to believe I had had enough and was probably still intoxicated the following morning.

My freshman year in high school I started developing my good little bad boy persona. I had been a good kid all my life. I drank beer, played party games to force myself and my friends to drink the stuff that pretty much tasted like crap. My senior year I had moved onto 151 as my drink of choice! I only needed a shot. The bottle would last quite a few parties.

My drinking slowed down once I was out of the house and raising kids. Too expensive. So I got into brewing. Slow process, but made some really good beer and mead. My first marriage ended and I finished college. I continued to brew and when I had an income I started buying alcohol again, this time legally. I hung out with actors. Drinking, or other forms of intoxication, unfortunately were common. I was almost the only actor who didn’t smoke, one substance or another. Somewhere in here my first marriage ended.

My second marriage included a fair amount of alcohol, an increase for me and a decrease for her. I took to drinking like a fish to water. Finding the most drinkable inexpensive red wines and supplementing them with homebrew and the new microbrews.

Last night, January 2nd, I noticed as I was drinking the last glass of wine I will drink for more than a year, that I wasn’t paying attention to how it tasted. Then why the heck am I drinking it? One guess. Not one I wanted to face. But I need to. I am…

Sad news with lots of love…


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2015 is closing out in the saddest way possible for me and my family. My daughter Sheridan gave birth to my third grand-child two weeks ago. She’d been battling horrendously high blood pressure and had to have an operation to remove a tumor in her adrenal gland. The operation went well, but the blood pressure didn’t stabilize.

The folks at UW Medical were amazing. They decided that the best thing for mother and baby was to deliver him early by C-section. Our family had our first grandson, Nolan Luther. Floods of positive thoughts, love, prayers and donations to help defray travel and living costs came their way. Little Nolan was transferred to Children’s Hospital a couple miles away in Seattle. Their staff was incredible, but my family was struck by a stomach flu bug.

Christmas Day we went to Children’s hoping to see the little guy. He was not doing well. I got to go see him with his retinue of doctors and nurses, respiratory therapists and more. After my daughter’s husband got there I took her back to UW Medical because we worried that she had the stomach flu while her husband Cameron stayed with Nolan.

Two days later her husband showed signs of the stomach flu, so I went down to stay with Nolan and read to him. I read to him from two of my favorite children’s books: Ferdinand and The Boy Who Could Sing Pictures. He was stable with only one nurse coming in and out. I went to get my daughter and bring her back as one of the best presents ever.

With her there, I headed back north, confident that everything was going to be fine. But yesterday morning my phone rang, my daughter’s mom. No way it was anything but bad news. Shock and pain. Nolan’s organs were not getting oxygen. They were going to pull him off the machines and let his parents hold him.

I took turns driving and crying on my way to Bellingham. I needed to figure out how to tell my youngest daughter. I called my mom and choked out enough words to let her know, at a loss for how to tell my 12 year old that the nephew she never got to meet was dying. When the moment came. I couldn’t say anything and didn’t need to. She voiced aloud all the words I was thinking as I held her and we both cried.

Now, I sit a day later trying to make sense. I can’t. There is none. Instead, at the suggestion of my partner, Elena, I’m making food for the family, home-made casseroles and soups to deliver to their empty new apartment, something to try to fill there stomach because I can’t fill the holes in all our hearts.

Please keep my daughter, her husband and their two year old daughter in your thoughts and prayers. The rest of the family can use them, too. And hug your own people. Tell them you love them. Life is fleeting…

Nolan Luther, you were here a too short time, but you touched many and will never be forgotten. You are loved.

Drive South


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When I drive I like to maximize my gas mileage and minimize my time on the road. I speed a little, never more than nine miles over and that’s in a 60-70 m.p.h. zones.  I like cruise control because it keeps the inertia going and minimizes the need for acceleration. Splitting my time between Bellingham and Mount Vernon, means that either my partner and or I have a 35 minute minimum commute. It used to be closer to 30 minutes, but an increase in traffic on I-5 and on the train tracks running alongside has made it 40-45 minutes on many days. Last week I had a fifteen minute wait for a coal train and the trip took an hour!

So, there are times that I dream of the roads being as clear as they are in my Deserted Lands universe. My biggest frustration is the inattentive drivers who cruise along, plod along in the fast lane doing a couple m.p.h. under the speed limit. Nah, that’s not true. My biggest frustration are their counterparts who drive the same way on purpose only to speed up if I pull into the slow lane to pass them. And let’s not even start [yet*] on the single person in the giant WHITE SUV with the chrome wheels talking on their cell-phone.

Sigh. Breathe.

So, I have a solution. I call it CARma points. At this point it is a philosophical game I play with myself that seems to increase my parking Karma. If someone lets me in a long line or stops to let the pedestrian cross, I give them a BING, a thumbs up gesture headed their way. Now, if the aforementioned SUV driver cuts me off because their phone conversation took a turn and they didn’t. They get a DING [or more in this case FIVE!*] signified by a tap on the dashboard or a thumbs down in their general direction.

Now what if there were an electronic tally system where these Bings and Dings helped or hindered folks’ insurance rates. Computer systems could make certain that a certain driver does not constantly DING/BING the same person over and over again. If we wanted to curb the negativity, each driver could get 3-5 DINGS and an unlimited supply of BINGS.

My counselor has suggested that I send the people who are being angrily passive aggressive or clueless little LOVE bombs of positivity for my own good health. I’m considering his advice. For the moment, being able to CARmically DING or BING folks keeps me calmer on the road. And yes, if I do something stupid, aggressive or clueless, I DING myself and I try to earn would-be BINGS from other drivers by letting them in and trying to guess in advance when I am going to be causing someone else stress so I can avoid being “that guy” in the car.

*Here is the breakdown on those FIVE DINGS

  • DING 1: Driving gigantic SUV as only a status symbol
  • DING 2: Driving said gigantic SUV alone
  • DING 3: Getting horrible gas mileage in gigantic SUV
  • DING 4: Driving gigantic SUV as only a status symbol
  • DING 5: wheels talking on their cell-phone.

Not to 50! Part I – “I can see clearly now…”


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I sometimes refer to myself as the Finder of Lost Things. I am most excellent at finding things, probably because I am so damn excellent at losing things. I lose coats, keys, phones, and most especially hats. But we’ll get to the many hats of Bartholomew Robbins in a later blog post.

So, it was no surprise that I would lose my glasses once I had to start wearing them to read. I’ve had glasses for several years, and they became necessary to read about the same time my grand-kids started to come along. I could no longer read the warnings on the blood pressure medication I was taking [cut some weight and alcohol intake and I’m off them for now]. So, I get my prescription updated every year and get lens every two. I drove over one of the pairs and they’re less useful now. But I have two pairs of fairly expensive glasses: reading and the new progressive lenses.

Because of my propensity for leaving glasses places, I’ve taken to buying dollar store readers. Even though I’m supposed to be wearing the progressives all the time, they are inadequate for using on the computer. The focal point for reading is so low that I end getting a hitch in my neck. So, not long after I got them, I misplaced them. They are in their case and I’m quite certain I will find them in my house or in one of the cars.

Then I went to Books by the Bay Book Festival and Authors Conference at the Bellwether in Bellingham. I lost the nice prescription pair of readers. I called their front desk and was told that they had many pairs of glasses, I should come in and see if they had mine. So, I finally managed to find the time to go check, mostly because I had lost most of my dollar store readers and I figured I could make one trip or the other in the time I had available. So I got to the Bellwether without any glasses. They brought out the box and my eyes focused (as well as I could focus) on one of the dozen plus pairs of glasses in the box. They looked like mine, except for the fact that one of the arms wasn’t bent. I figure whoever picked them up, might have straightened them, and put them on.

But I was still uncertain if they were my glasses. The desk attendant suggested that they had been there for some time and since they didn’t have a name or room number attached, they probably were mine. I thanked her and took them home. When my partner, Elena, got home I asked her if they were mine. She looked quizzically at me and said, “I don’t know.” A few days later when my daughter came over, she told me they were not my glasses. I’m still not sure. So, I’m hoping that either the owner doesn’t come back or that perhaps he took my glasses. If I do end up finding my pair, I will feel some chagrin. Maybe I’ll check in with my optometrist and see if they can tell me, but until then… I’m glad that I can see clearly now, my brain is gone…

If you want to help my buy some more glasses, please check out my books and stuff for sale at Thanks.

Alopecia Areata and other Heavy Metal band names…


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Several months ago at a gathering of the Whatcom Writers and Publishers I was gently approached by a woman with a question. She was producing a book about people with Alopecia. And the question she kindly asked was did I have Alopecia, hair loss caused by an auto-immune reaction. I’m pretty sure she knew the answer, but the way she approached, warm and kind, was quite wonderful. Her name is Deeann Callis Graham.

The book, Head-On, Stories of Alopecia, is a collection of 75 personal narratives. And it is finished. My story, Alopecia Areata and other Heavy Metal band names… was one of the last submitted. It is a lovely book, with touching stories about this puzzling auto-immune disease that comes in three flavors: areata, totalis and universalis. This condition can really send self-esteem for a loop. So, if you’re interested in the book, or the condition here is the website: HEAD ON.

There are also some wonderful photographs by my friend, Damian Vines.


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