Does turning 70-years-old have to mean getting on the fast lane to becoming elderly?


My family celebrates my 70th birthday
My family helps me celebrate.



When asked about my age, I like to say I'm a member of the first class of baby-boomers and slide over the fact that I turn 70 years old in a few days.  In my mind, it's a number that has some sharp edges that can poke your thinking about the future.

I think my family surmised this and arranged a surprise birthday party this weekend.  They came from two different states with their families, including three babies and one toddler still in diapers.  As I walked into a local craft brewery with my wife, they were sitting just inside the door.  My two-year-old grandson came rushing to me and in a daze I looked over and saw everybody.

Here's my situation:  For the past several months I've been getting an increasing volume of mail from funeral directors, hearing aid dealers, cemeteries and Medicaid vendors.  These have a certain subliminal message that you're getting old and that your clock is running out of ticks.

Having my whole family here really layered these feelings with a strong topping of love.  They care for me and care enough to travel a good distance to celebrate and help me live forward, rather than looking over my shoulder.

They are each special:

  • My wife Gladys--she has not laughed at me when I see all the numbers on the obituaries that match my age and then wince.  
  • My daughter Krista--She and her family are in the process of resettling in this country after living and working in Europe for five years.  She's an organizer and knows how to help make her dad feel special.
  • My son Justin--We have a special father-son relationship that goes back to when he joined this world.  He has been consistent in his love and his tolerance for my shakiness in retiring and getting older.
  • My son-in-law Adam--he's a victim of my watching the Father Of The Bride too many times.  He has been an awesome friend to me and tries to understand and support me as I move into this new season of life.
  • My daughter-in-law Lauren--she's an amazing woman who has made our lives more full and loving.

Then there's our grandkids.  They have helped us experience and give love in a new way.  We can see the future through their eyes and their growth.

I'm looking forward to living forward with this great family that God has given me and my wife.

Thank-you to them for making this rite of passage special.

A report to my mother--Frieda Thorp--in heaven about her great grandkids






I'm not sure what my mother-Frieda Thorp-would be doing in heaven on a Wednesday afternoon.  She would probably miss this blog post showing three of her five great grandkids visiting my mom's sister Aileen Anderson in West Virginia.  I would ask my mom's cronies in heaven to point these pictures out to her to show that she has left legacy that has left a trail of love in its wake since she died in 1996.

My daughter and her husband along with their three kids were traveling through Aunt Aileen's area and popped in.  You can see that their visit to my 91-year-old aunt would rival most medicines you could obtain in a pharmacy.  The smiles show it.  I hope that my grandkids will pack away a memory of that visit.

She's a special lady.  She had five sisters and six brothers.  They lost both their parents at a very young age.  It happened during a time when there was no foster care or social services.  The older siblings took the younger ones as their responsibility.  This was during the 1930s when life in this country was uniquely hard.  They stuck together.  

Aileen married when she was a teenager.  Her husband-Ron Anderson-served in the South Pacific during World War II.  When he came back he took his radio skills and used them to become a pioneer in two-way radio communication for governmental units.  He did this with Motorola.  He and Aileen were role models for me and my cousins.  

Last year, Ron became real sick and didn't recover.  He died one week and Aileen had a leg amputated a short time later.  During that time she kept looking forward.  She didn't dwell on her loss, but on what she still had and what she was looking forward to.  I've watched her hit lots of high walls in her life and you could almost see God right next to her boosting her over.

My mom needs to know that Aileen was there today representing the family.  Three of my grandkids got to meet her.  I hope they remember.  If not I hope this blog post will help.

Mom, you should be proud.  

I admit that I'm an almost 70-year-old fanboy of filmmaker Casey Neistat

I have my morning routine which usually starts with an eyedrop and then a beeline to the living room where I sit on one end and my wife on the other with our devices in our laps.  My first go-to is the Beyond The Weekend devotion from our church, Ada Bible Church and from there I read a couple of emails and then go to some news.

But sandwiched in there is a visit to Casey Neistat's YouTube channel.  Who is he?  Casey is a 30-something YouTube filmmaker who is reinventing how to tell a story with video.  

He does a daily vlog where he chronicles his everyday life in New York City.  In addition to being a filmmaker, he's has a web app company where he and his cohorts have developed one called Beme.  It's for taking raw unedited video with either an iPhone or Android and then sharing it with the world.

I have faithfully watched his vlog everyday for the past year.  He shoots it himself and includes everybody around him.  He moves through New York City  on a motorized skateboard made by Boosted and he tells the daily story of his wife, his toddler daughter and his son along with his business.  All this is punctuated with lots of travel which he records.

Why am I fascinated?  Just think of the possibilities.  What if politicians and pastors could become more real by using such a technique.  That means they would have to be transparent.  Casey establishes a template for doing it.  Above you will see the vlog episode uploaded today.

Drinking less expensive wine-under $3 a bottle-while living on a pension and Social Security

Winking Owl merlot
We bought this under $3 per bottle of Merlot this week at Aldis

What wine do you drink when you watch television on a Sunday night?  While watching Madam Secretary or the Good Wife, we occasionally get out our stemless wine glasses and have a taste of wine.  This can be expensive, especially if you're a retiree living on a fixed income.

This week we shopped at one of the Aldis in our area and found Winking Owl Merlot for under $3 a bottle.  We haven't opened it yet.  We hope it's drinkable.  Perhaps, we don't have to spend the equivalent of three gallons of gas for a decent bottle of wine.

Have any of you drunk Winking Owl wines?  What do you think?

Our past week here in mid-Michigan in pictures

My summary of this past week would be dominated by the weather where normally we would be using the grill, giving the lawn a first cut and giving our car a good cleaning.  Instead, we have been flopping between snow, rain and some occasional sunshine.  These photos are from my phone and record some of the highlights.  

Most important was from the sermon at church last night where we heard Pastor Jeff Manion of Ada Bible Church  talk about "The Land Between." It was a reprise of a sermon we heard him deliver a few years ago.  We found it valuable then and more as we get older.  It's about the times when we find ourselves in unwanted transition of life.  Those might be related to health, family, jobs, marriage and any other situation we did not want or ask for.



What about those life changes that turn life upside down?
What does God's Word say about transitions that we're forced to make.





Books from Ding Dong School.
How many of you older baby-boomers remember the old television show "Ding Dong School?" I found these on our bookshelves this week.



Okay, older baby-boomers, do you remember Miss Francis and Ding Dong School?  This past week I was going through one of our book shelves and found these two books that were mine when I was really young.  My mom would read this to me.  Miss Francis was a precursor to Sesame Street.  It was on in the fifties.  



Special orange muffins.
These were made from a recipe that my mom used when I was a very young child.


My wife was sorting through an immense collection of recipes that she's used during the past almost 35 years.  This one for orange muffins was from my early boyhood days.  My mom made them on very special occasions, like maybe once a year.  They contained orange juice from freshly squeezed oranges, shaved orange peels and lots of sugar.  Gladys made them this past week. My memory machine was in full gear.



Milestone for our Honda Civic.
We turned over 100,000 miles this past week on our seven-year-old Honda Civic.


Our seven-year-old Honda Civic turned over 100,000 miles a few days ago.  The car has been relatively trouble free with our regular maintenance.  We have shaved down our fleet of cars to one.  Before the kids made us empty-nesters, we had four.  The Civic is great for visiting our kids and grandkids who live in different states.


We do our taco salads healthy style here at our house.  Nutrition is something we try to watch, especially as I move into my 70th birthday.  Most of our meals our consumed on our couch with a fold down middle section that we use for a table.  Most lunches are eaten in front of Everybody Loves Raymond.  

Has the scourge of dandruff been overcome in our culture?

Head & Shoulders in my shower.
Do you remember when shampoo commercials dominated television and magazines?

Are you old enough to remember when dandruff was a big thing in our culture?  There was a time when you could walk into a church service and see somebody scratching their head or you could see the little white flecks of skin on a dark piece of clothing.

I remember having dandruff and the times when I would sit in front of the television scratching my head with a comb.  I was maybe teen or pre-teen.  And I had lots of hair and now I don't.  Television commercials were dominated by dandruff shampoos like Head & Shoulders and others.  Dandruff was a condition that really touched our culture.

Look around you.  Do you see any evidence of dandruff?  White specks on people's clothing?  Shelves of anti-dandruff products in stores?  Head scratching?

One minute it was there and the next it was gone.  Could it be that there are lots of aging baby-boomers who have little or no hair?  Does baldness make a difference?  Where do shampoo-makers advertise these days?  

The top of my head is pretty much hairless these days.  Check this picture of me five-years ago when my oldest grandson was born.  I had a hint of hair.  Today, the hint has vanished.

I'm almost hairless here.
I'm holding my grandson here as I show off the top of my head with a little hair.


Do you remember your first cup of coffee?


My coffee cup yesterday.
Do you remember your first cup of coffee? I remember mine.

During lunch yesterday, my wife and I talked about our first cup of coffee.  Do you remember yours?  I remember mine.  I was studying late one night with my roommate while a student at Michigan State University.  He was a coffee drinker and I was not.  As I yawned, he encouraged me to try it.  The rest is history.

I remember introducing my son to caffeine during a time when he was in grade school and when he and I would shop for groceries on Saturday.  We were at the local Meijers where they had a stand for this drink called cappuccino.  We split one.  That was it.  He's 30 and he's a coffee drinker.  I wonder if his 18-month-old son will develop a taste for the beverage.

I often wonder whether I could stop my coffee habit cold turkey.  I drink a couple of cups a day.  It's almost ritual that a coffee mug is the second thing I say hello to in the morning.  

Do I want to?  Right now, I have no reason to stop.

My week in pictures as an almost 70-year-old baby boomer

I'm often asked what I do with my time as a retiree and a member of the first class of baby-boomers who turn 70 this year.  Being empty-nesters and with no day job, we have time for neighborhood meetings.  We went to two this past week and we supported the organization we volunteer with-the local Meals on Wheels.
Water collection at the Lansing Mall.
While we walked at the Lansing Mall this week we noticed a collection point for water to give to Flint's people.


Averill Woods Neighborhood Association meeting.
Our neighborhood-Averill Woods-had a meeting Thursday night. Local police gave a report.


Walking at the Lansing Mall.
One day this week, the cold took our walking to the Lansing Mall.
Judge Clark brought pens
At one of our meetings, local District Court Judge talked to our neighborhood. He brought pens.
We attended a fundraiser at a local restaurant.
My wife and I have started delivering Meals on Wheels. They had a fundraiser this week at a local restaurant.
My meeting shirt.
I like bright yellow as I demonstrate in my going to a meeting shirt this week.

Looking back at my Vietnam era training at Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri

My mom and me at Fort Leonard Wood.
My mother and me pose at the Chapel at Fort Leonard Wood.

Thousands of guys went through Army training in the late sixties and early seventies at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri.  I was one of them.  

It was a time of turmoil in this country as baby-boomers were faced with the draft and then with a lottery for the draft.  The Vietnam War during that time was incredibly unpopular and the perception seemed to be that anybody joining the military back then was the real enemy.

I was able to join an active U.S. Army Reserve unit in the Detroit area.  But the first requirement was to go through several months of training.  

I still remember individual drill sergeants, exercises we went on and fellow recruits I trained with.  The picture above was taken when my mom visited me at the post.  Notice the sign for the services for different denominations.


Baby-boomers: How many of you still stay in touch with your cousins?

A picture of me and my cousins.
This is a picture of me and four of my cousins. I'm not sure of the year.

I come from a very large extended family.  My mom had six brothers and five sisters and most of them had kids.  Her brothers and sisters lived near each other and they stayed in touch.

This meant that I had a lot of cousins.  Even though I was an only child, I had cousins who I would see often at family functions, especially Sunday dinners when the whole clan would get together.  My cousins had a variety of interests.  One was into cars and machines.  Another was into two-way radios, while others covered the rest of the waterfront from politics to carpentry.  A few were into playing games, like anything with cards.

As we grew-up and moved away, our contact was less and less.  Some had major life changes like losing a spouse.  One was killed in Vietnam.  They had kids and developed interests where our paths would not cross often.

Now most of us are firmly past middle age and some of us are get into the period of being full-fledged senior citizens.  We do have some contact at funerals of aunts and uncles.  But that's becoming less with only one aunt left.

Is the interest in renewing relationships still there?  With social media, it's much easier.  There's a whole lot of catching up that can still be enjoyed.

I still stay in touch with a couple.


This baby-boomer needs to prepare for turning 70-years-old this year

This selfie was taken with an app--Flare--which I'm helping to beta test.

I know it's only a number, but turning 70 this year seems like such a big number.  For instance, in ten years I'll be 80.  I know that physical and mental limitations start to show themselves more as one crosses these milestones.  As a result, I know that I need to carefully prioritize my time.  I know how easy it is to let time cruise by and not get anything done.

First, I need to deal with the number 70.  It's a head thing, an attitude.  It's easy to get lost in the feeling that I'm done.  I haven't had a day job for 11 years.  Somedays I've felt like my wheels have been spinning in the mud, while other days have felt like I'm stuck in a quick sand that's pulling me down.  

Let me be clear.  My wife is retired too.  And we enjoy doing things together.  Really, we do.  Since, we've gotten married our life has been built around our mutual faith in God.  We put value in being part of a church.  Those involvements come and go. The church we attend now and the one that we really like seems to retire attenders to the backbencher once they reach a certain age.  And, I think we've crossed that chronological line.

Our kids are great, as are our grandkids. We do try to plug into their lives, but because of substantial distance, we usually do it via FaceTime or phone calls and occasional visits.  This technology allows us to be part of their lives, but in a limited way.  We saw our granddaughter eat her first bite of cereal and we've seen one of our grandsons take his first tentative steps and then grow into a toddler and now a full-fledged walker.

We've outgrown our house as empty-nesters and we are contemplating the next move.  Condo?  Climate?  Nearer to the kids?  Money?  How much can we swing?  

The sand in the hourglass seems to be moving quicker and quicker.  These are points to be dealt with this year.  They are all positive, I guess.  

Life is a big series of phases.  There's the first time the baby sleeps all night.  First time walking.  Then they talk.  You turn 50.  Kids graduate from high school.  Then college.  Their first jobs.  You walk your daughter down the aisle.  Stand next to your son as his best man.  And then the grandkids.

My junk mail has even gone through phases.  A couple of years ago, everybody was trying to sell me hearing aids.  Now I'm getting mail from funeral homes.

Yup, this is the year to double-check how I use my time.  Less Dr. Phil watching and more doing what I really want to get done.


Last night's GOP debate made me think of the Kennedy-Nixon debates in 1960


Jeb Bush during last night's debate.
We watched the GOP debates last night.


We watched the whole GOP presidential debate last night on CNN.  We weren't glued to our television, but we got the gist of all the comments from the candidates.  Nothing was said that got us excited nor did we produce any extra bile from any of the feigned anger and sharp exchanges.  Best part was probably the thimble full of Baileys that we had during the whole thing.

But, it did remind me of the first presidential debate that I watched between Kennedy and Nixon in 1960 when I was a freshman in high school.  

With two buddies, John Hebert and Bill Young, we watched from the small apartment that my mother and I lived in on Marquette Street in Bay City.  The television set was black and white and it was portable.  

It was a historic moment.  That was the first time such a debate was done on live television.  Bay City was a blue collar town that had a strong identification with labor unions.  

But, there were lots of doubts about Kennedy.  It had a high proportion of Lutherans and Catholics with the Lutherans kind of wondering if the Pope might move into the White House.  Really, that was the talk among many.  During that time there was a social gap between the two groups.  The town stopped the night of the debate.  People watched and they talked about it.

That debate cinched it for Kennedy.  The contrast between he and Nixon was stark.  It was an easy choice for my neighbors.  

We didn't have the same reaction last night.  None of them on either side are moving me.  

Do you send Christmas cards, a newsletter or none at all?

Our Christmas newsletters.
I have a full file of our past Christmas newsletters.

Do you like getting Christmas cards?  Christmas newsletters?  Both?

This year are you sending cards.  More or less than past years?  And how about a newsletter?  Have you written yet and what will you include?  What do your friends and family want to read about your past year?

We've been married 34 years and we started sending out cards in year one and then our daughter came along the next year and we added a newsletter.  Then two years after that we added our son.  And we had plenty to share.  People wanted to know about the kids.

And we did a newsletter just about every year after that.  One year we tried e-maling most of them and sending paper copies to those we knew didn't have a computer.

Then we became empty-nesters, our kids got married and they had kids.  This year I will write one more newsletter.  We will email some and send some with cards.  It will include plenty about the grandkids and their parents with some reaction to engaging with life as full-fledged senior citizens.

What about you?  Have you already sent cards?  Newsletters?  None?  Received any?  

I will be thinking of my grade school principal this morning when I'm singing Christmas Carols in church


My grade school principal.
He was my grade school principal for two years.


 My mom said that when I was little that I loved to sing, especially in church.  I don't remember that.

I do remember being in seventh grade at Immanuel School in Bay City, Michigan and being called before the class to sing by myself to try out for a school choir.  My teacher was Principal Victor A. Drogemueller who led the choir and who played the organ at the church.  

He had great musical gifts and I didn't have any other than knowing how to turn on a radio and a 45 rpm record player.  And, at home, I occasionally saw Perry Como on tv at my aunt and uncle's house.  However, I was intimidated by people who could sing and play instruments.

When my name was called in class, I froze big time.  With all the bluntness of a drill sergeant, he demanded that I continue and I botched it big time.  He frowned and shook his head is disdain.  I've never liked singing since then.

At church today, I know they will be singing some Christmas Carols.  Can I do it?  If I do, it will be in honor of "Vic" as a few people would refer to him.  

CASEY NEISTAT: Am I the oldest "Beme" user in the world?


A Beme t-shirt.
Baby-boomers should be Beme users.


How many of you under 30 have heard of an app called Beme?  It's a photo-sharing app developed by the young film-maker Casey Neistat who shows his extensive body of work mainly on YouTube.  As an avid follower of his vlog for the past year, I can see how he has influenced film-making and how he has tapped into the hearts of young visual learners.

Look on YouTube and you see a multiplicity of Neistat copycats and some of them are quite good.  Why is this important?

This new generation of film-makers are opening up a new channel of communication for anybody with something to say or share.  It's something that can be used by everybody from local city council members, to state legislators, churches, students and just about everybody else.  I get it.

That's where Beme comes in.  Install it on your iPhone, open the app, hold the phone to your chest or cover up the top sensor on the screen side and it automatically takes four seconds of video.  You can keep on taking these video chunks which are processed at Beme headquarters.  Your video stays up for a short period of time and then is deleted.

Have I mastered it?  No.  But I'd like to use it more and get better with my camera skills and my ability to narrate what I'm seeing.  

With his YouTube vlogs, Neistat has built a world-wide community, mostly those under 40, I'd guess.  How old am I?

I will be 70 next August.  By the way, my Beme name is west846.

Below is a Beme I took a few days ago when my wife and I did an early morning walk in our neighborhood.  No narration.  I have to practice and become more confident with that.

I hope my grandkids ask me about my greatest strength


What is your greatest strength?
Kara Tippetts shared her life and death through her blog and her book.


If my kids or grandkids ever ask me the question, I think I'm ready with an answer that I'm really pretty sure about.

I hope my five grandkids have a chance to read this someday.  As I transition through the fourth-quarter of my life, I've had lots of time to think about my strong and weak points.  I've seen plenty of the latter and felt uncertain about the former.

Through the years, I've stumbled in my life more than my fair share.  But I've always been able to get up.

When I was younger, I had an intellectual knowledge of the importance of Jesus is my life, but my heart knowledge of that was rather thin.  

It's taking me a long time to learn the importance of what Kara Tippetts says.  My biggest strength is my neediness for Jesus.  He gives me real hope.  I see the reality of that fact more and more everyday.

How long would it take me to list 10,000 reasons to be thankful today?

A selfie with my wife and me.
My wife is heaven sent and I thank God for her.

Heavenly Father,

Open my heart today to remind me on this Thanksgiving Day of how much I have to be thankful for.  I am overwhelmed by how good you have been to me, by what has happened in the past and by what lies ahead in the future.

Before waking up this morning, I kept thinking about how I have 24/7 access to you the creator of the world.  I can go into your presence right now and experience your splendor and majesty.  I'm awed that I can talk to you at any time and you listen in contrast to how long it might take to get into the dentist.  

You loved the world and everybody in it.  You gave us all your son Jesus.  Help me and everybody else to see that love very clearly in our hearts.

Bless our day today with our son and his family and with friends who are coming to celebrate with us.  Amen.

P.S.  And thank you for the very special song 10,000 Reasons which helps me refocus my heart towards you.

It's time for a new family picture for our wall over our mantle

Pictures over our mantle.
Pictures over our mantle need to be updated.

I love being surrounded by pictures of our immediate family.  In our living room and when sitting on our couch, all I have to do is turn my head to the left or right and I see family, our kids, our grandkids and my wife and me.  These were taken at a variety of points in time.

Then go into our kitchen and you'll see more.  There's a huge montage that features our growing grandchildren.  And then in the hallway, there's more.  They are constant reminders of the best part of my life, being part of a family.

But our collection is in need of updating.  We need a new shot of our whole immediate family.  The one of the original four is great.  But, by spring we will be eleven.  Somehow we need to get everybody together and do it.  Two new grand babies are due in the spring.

My taste for family pictures really exploded when we had our daughter 33 years ago.  As I took pictures and got them printed, I put them up on my office wall in the State Capitol Pressroom.  My collection grew until it occupied a whole wall over my telephone and then we had our son.  There were even more.

I love capturing moments in the history of our family.  These are times that once they happen will never comeback unless you have a photo or video.  

Our first "Meals On Wheels" deliveries opened our eyes to need in our city

A hot meal from Meals on Wheels.
This is the hot meal that we delivered.

We did our first Meals On Wheels delivery yesterday.  After doing it and seeing the smiles on the faces of the people we dropped off meals to, we felt good about doing it.  We delivered 17 meals to 11 different people.  They all seemed elderly and had some sort of physical challenge. 

Our meals were ready for us at the program's kitchens and were contained in two coolers.  We also had a clip board with all the information that we needed to make the deliveries.

We enjoyed doing it, especially being able to do it together.  We are down to do it twice in December.

A clip board with Meals On Wheels information.
Our route was organized in a very clear way with a map which made delivery very easy.




Delivering the meals.
Some driveways were not shoveled out and some porches were not clear of snow.


Pick-up for Meals on Wheels.
This is where we picked up our cooler and insulated bag.

My wife and I deliver "Meals on Wheels" for the first time today


Getting meals on wheels training.
Vicki Watson trains us on how to deliver the meal so clients get what they asked for.


I vividly remember when my mother in Bay City, Michigan, would have Meals on Wheels delivered to her house.  She was struggling physically, was driving very little and was showing evidence of some dementia.  Every week day, she got hot meals and a friendly face knocking on her door.  It meant a lot to her.

Today, my wife and I will deliver Meals on Wheels to residents in Lansing.  It's the first time and we want to be extra careful about delivering the right food to the right people.

I'm cranking up my inner smile so it shows up on my face.  I want to "pay it forward" for what was done for my mom.