Mid-Month Marvels: Lifetime Learning Center

A recurring theme in this blog is the celebration of people and/or organizations that have a positive impact on their communities. What they do is not easy, but it’s inspirational, and we don’t hear enough about them. So I’ve decided to commit to singing their praises at least once a month. I’ll be calling it Mid-Month Marvels. If you have any suggestions for the focus of this monthly spotlight, let me know in the comments below!


When I first got to the Seattle area, I didn’t really know anyone, and I was kind of lonely, so I decided to take a pottery class at the local community college. I learned more in that class than I anticipated (and I blogged about it here.) That’s also where I learned about the Lifetime Learning Center.

This center believes, as I do, that you’re never too old to learn something new. According to their website, their mission is to promote successful aging and maintain the social, cognitive and physical well-being of adults within our community. They do this by providing a variety of reasonably priced classes that meet once a week. (A $15.00 registration fee is required each quarter, and most classes are $35.00 per 8 week session.)

They don’t require that you be a senior citizen to attend their classes, but that is their target audience. And I think that’s wonderful. Learning is a great way to keep the mind sharp, and it gives you purpose and reduces isolation. We could all do with a bit of those things.

A quick glance at their course catalog definitely got me interested. Here are some of their offerings this quarter:

  • A History of the American Musical

  • Crochet

  • Intermediate Ukulele

  • Life Stories Writing Group

  • The Earth and the Oceans

  • Marxism

  • India: The Past is Present

  • Quilt Making Basics

  • Watercolor: An Innovative Approach

  • Beginning Bridge

  • The Tempest

  • Positive Psychology: Choose Your Own Adventure

  • Contemporary Arguments About Philosophy

If and when I retire, and my schedule becomes more flexible, I hope that I remember to take advantage of the classes on offer at the Lifetime Learning Center. Because I don’t want to ever stop learning.

I hope you’ll support this organization, and/or see if your community offers something similar.

These are NOT students at the Lifetime Learning Center, but I’d like to think that the dynamic is the same.

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We Bought Ourselves a Boulder

I never thought I’d buy something that weighed over 900 pounds unless I was planning to drive in it or live in it, but the other day we did just that. We kind of had no choice. People love to do u-turns in our driveway, not realizing how soft the ground is if you leave the paved area. And they always leave the paved area. We have the deep, muddy trenches in the lawn to prove it.

We tried putting several cantaloupe and watermelon-sized rocks there, but they’d just drive over them or shove them aside. We’d just look away and shake our heads as these people sped off with nary an apology for their destructive natures. But now we have our little free library out front, and there’s the fear that some fool would slide up in there and take out a pedestrian or the library itself. So it was time to get serious.

So we went rock shopping. Now that’s a sentence I never thought I’d type. Who goes rock shopping?

You don’t realize just how much rock variety there is out there until you start looking. All different shapes and sizes and compositions. You kind of have to have an open mind when making this sort of purchase, because you’re never going to find one that is exactly the right shape and size for your purposes. You can’t be inflexible. You can’t be rocklike when rock hunting.

Personally, I fell in love with a thick granite slab with golden streaks through it. It was beautiful. It had a nice flat top, and when the sun hit it just right, it sparkled. I could have gazed at that rock all day long. Images of kids sitting on it to read books from the library. I mean, I really, really, really wanted that rock.

But dear husband made a good point. It was too low to the ground. Our neighborhood truck driving fools would probably just drive right over the top of it, or a smaller car wouldn’t see it in the dark and would rip out their undercarriage.

Well, shoot. There’s nothing more annoying than practical observations when you’ve already fallen in love. But yeah, I had to reluctantly turn my back on that gorgeous boulder. I will remember it fondly.

There was a better option. It was ugly compared to its golden-streaked neighbor. I was just a lopsided chunk of basalt. It didn’t speak to me, really. You might even say it maintained a stony silence. (Sorry. Had to.)

But it was the right size, and tall enough so that it couldn’t be overlooked or driven over. And basalt is a very dense rock. Nobody is going to move this sucker without some heavy equipment.

In fact, they had to use a forklift to get it over to the scales so we could find out how much it would cost. This place prices their rocks by the type and by the ton. And it turns out that this particular rock weighed 900 pounds.

Think about that for a moment. The average male deer weighs about 150 pounds, and we all know what one of them can do to your car’s front end. This boulder is one to be avoided. It’s your basic working class, utilitarian rock. I became convinced that it was what we needed.

So, we bought ourselves a rock, and it was delivered a few days later. There was much conversation with the forklift operator, because as he said, once this thing was off the pallet and on the ground, it wasn’t going anywhere. There would be no tweaking its position. Welcome home, rock, you’re here to stay.

I had grown up around large rocks in Connecticut. I used to love climbing on them. Then we moved to Florida, the land of sand and limestone. I missed the rocks of my youth. It’s lovely to be in the Pacific Northwest amongst rocks again. But I never thought I’d own one.

It’s kind of sad that we’ll never know for sure where our rock came from originally. Boulders, as a general rule, don’t come with certificates of provenance. But I can’t imagine anyone would bother to transport it very far. It may not weigh a ton, but it weighs a lot.

But the bulk of the Columbia River Gorge right here in Washington State is made up of basalt. So I’d like to think that this rock was once along the banks of that mighty river. It’s kind of romantic, if you think about it.

And just like that, I became attached to the thing. So that’s how we bought ourselves a boulder. I’ll say it now so that you won’t be tempted to clutter up the comments section: Yes, we rock.

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Mid Month Marvels: Old Dog Haven

A recurring theme in this blog is the celebration of people and/or organizations that have a positive impact on their communities. What they do is not easy, but it’s inspirational, and we don’t hear enough about them. So I’ve decided to commit to singing their praises at least once a month. I’ll be calling it Mid-Month Marvels. If you have any suggestions for the focus of this monthly spotlight, let me know in the comments below!

For my first Mid-Month Marvel, I’ve decided to focus on one of my husband’s favorite organizations: Old Dog Haven. According to their website, “Old Dog Haven is a small nonprofit group using a large network of foster homes to provide a loving safe home for abandoned senior dogs in western Washington. When we have room and the means, we take these dogs into our homes. We adopt out those dogs with a reasonable life-expectancy. We care for the rest as members of the family in permanent foster homes (what we call “Final Refuge”) for as long as they have good quality of life. In addition, we try to assist owners in finding new homes for their senior dogs through our website and referrals.”

This amazing organization is about to celebrate its 15th anniversary. They usually have about 330 dogs in their care, and these are dogs who are in their final years of life and deserve extra love and care. If left to regular shelters, their odds of being adopted would be very slim. And the stress and confusion of shelter life for these dogs would do more harm than good.

Old Dog Haven doesn’t have a kennel. All their dogs stay in loving homes. It’s all about quality of life without heroic measures. When an ODH dog is placed in a final refuge home, ODH pays for all veterinary care and medications. Their medical costs average 80k a month, so needless to say they appreciate donations as well as foster homes.

There are several ways you can help. You can adopt a dog, in which case they become yours and that includes their medical bills. You can become a Final Refuge for a dog, and ODH pays for all veterinary care and medications. You can make a one time donation, a monthly donation, or sponsor a dog. You can donate to the Maranda Fund to help pay for major surgeries. You can donate a vehicle. You can even leave a legacy in your will. You can also volunteer to be a foster parent, or transport the dogs, or participate in outreach events or fundraising.

When I asked my husband what he loves most about this organization, he said, “I love the knowledge that there’s an organization that values these dogs. Sometimes they are left behind when an owner dies, sometimes their health issues become too expensive for owners. This organization saves the dogs and covers their medical bills and what they need are open hearts, open minds, and open homes to give the love these dogs deserve. I’ve respected this organization for years and donated to them on many occasions. I was so pleased to discover that one of my first clients (that had dogs instead of kids) was a foster home for Old Dog Haven. Later on I was pleased to discover in the ODH newsletter that he had gone on to become a board member for them.”

Organizations such as Old Dog Haven reaffirm my faith in mankind. I hope you’ll join us in supporting them or places like theirs in your community.


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The Museum of Glass

If you ever find yourself in Tacoma, Washington, I highly recommend that you pay the Museum of Glass a visit. It’s been around since 2002, and it’s a place where you can experience all things glass. Its very existence revitalized that charming city.

I suggest that you approach the museum by crossing Chihuly’s Bridge of Glass. It’s an otherworldly riot of color that will leave you wondering how it could possibly be topped by the indoor exhibits. There’s the ceiling display called the Seaform Pavillion, then a wall of vase-like objects that are lit up at night, called the Venetian Wall, and then two large blue sculptures that can also be seen as you drive beneath them on the freeway, called the Crystal Towers.

The building itself is a tilted, stainless steel cone, and it’s fun to stand in front of it, tilted yourself, for a memorable selfie. (I’d show you ours, but I have a modest husband.)

Upon entering the building, check out the hot shop first. That way you can cool off afterward in the exhibit area, because to say that the hot shop is hot is an understatement. But there you can watch glass artists in front of the scorching hot ovens, honing their craft. It’s really magical to watch something transform from a baseball sized lump to a stunningly designed, extremely intricate vase. And there is always someone on hand who can answer your questions about each step of the process.

Glass Hotshop

Next I recommend that you take a peek down a glass fronted hallway called Art Alley, where the “Kids Design Glass” exhibit is. This is a delightful concept. Kids under 12 can go to the website and fill out a Kids Design Glass Entry Form. The entry includes the child’s drawing, and their own little story that inspires the drawing. Then, once a month, one entry is chosen, and the hot shop invites that child to watch them make two copies of the glass sculpture inspired by that drawing. One copy goes to the child, and the other one is put on display. What fun!

The museum often has workshops where you can experience glassmaking firsthand, and there are also docent-led tours of the exhibits, or you can explore them on your own. In addition, there’s a docent-guided Chihuly Walking Tour around downtown Tacoma on some days. And there are a lot of one-day events throughout the year. Check the website for days and times.

There’s a permanent Dale Chihuly exhibit, and a few rotating exhibits and short term exhibits.

I’m hesitant to tell you about the amazing exhibit we saw, entitled Raven and the Box of Daylight, because by the time you read this, it will be gone. It was based on a Tlingit story about Raven’s journey as he transforms the world, bringing light to the people via the stars, moon, and sun. It was otherworldly. You experience it through the glass, the story, the music and the lighting. I was a feast for the senses. I’m so glad that photography was allowed (see below), or it would have felt like it was all a dream.

And every good museum has a store. I wanted one of everything. But I’m trying not to accumulate stuff.

Check out the Museum of Glass. You’ll be so glad you did!

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Looking Back on a Massive Change

Five years ago today, I arrived in Seattle, knowing no one. I’d never been here before. I knew nothing about the place. I may as well have landed on the moon. The very first thing I did was sit in a public park with my dogs. I felt very overwhelmed. I remember thinking, “Now what?” But I was also excited about the possibilities. Hanging on to that feeling is what saw me through the more challenging times.

I had spent the bulk of my life in the conservative South, where I always felt like a liberal turd in a republican punchbowl, so to say that Seattle was a culture shock was putting it mildly. I didn’t know my way around. I hadn’t even heard of the Seattle Freeze yet, so I had no idea about all the extra hurdles I’d have to jump through to make friends. (I must confess that I struggle with that to this day. I find many people out here to be flakey, unreliable, standoffish, and confusing. It takes a lot of effort to find the gems amongst the unyielding rocks, but that tends to enhance their value.)

At one point, an obnoxious distant relative accused me of running away. I wrote a furious blog post about that. Starting fresh is not always a massive avoidance scenario. Sometimes you have nothing to lose, and everything to gain. But on that first day, I had no idea what the gains, if any, would be.

Every time I pass that park where I first sat, I wish I could go back and hug that girl and tell her everything will turn out okay. My, my, how time does fly. I can now say with complete confidence that moving here was the best decision I ever made. For the first time in my life, I’m relatively financially stable. More often than not, I love my job. I purchased a house. I’ve had a lot of adventures, the greatest of which was finding love and getting married. I’m exactly where I should be.

Sometimes you have to take a leap and hope the net will appear. That’s what I did. Thank goodness it turned out well. I could have just as easily landed with a massive, irreparable splat. So three cheers for nets!

Incidentally, if you’d like to read about my epic journey across the continent, start here. And if you’d like to read other posts about my transition, do a search within my categories section for My Jacksonville to Seattle Do Over. (That category includes the epic journey, but contains many other posts as well.)

me cross country

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The Best Part of Philanthropy

Yesterday I talked about The Darker Side of Philanthropy, so today I thought I should discuss the good stuff. Fair’s fair.

As I wrote this post, a virtually endless stream of cyclists from Seattle’s annual Obliteride to obliterate cancer were rolling over my bridge in the rain. Many of them have committed to raise as much as $1000.00 to participate in this event, and as of my last viewing of the Obliteride website, they have raised 2.5 million dollars for the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center so far. Good on them!

Obliteride, as seen from my drawbridge.

I happen to love the kind of philanthropy that stems from the larger community. I love microloan organizations such as Kiva.org. I love crowdfunding sites in general.

I also love supporting those organizations that promote the dignity of the people who will receive the assistance, such as Heifer International, which donates farm animals to people, teaches them how to raise and breed them, and encourages them to pass on these benefits to their neighbors.

I am particularly fond of those who may not have money to give, but who are generous with their time. Volunteers are awesome. People who donate blood or hair or kidneys or bone marrow are, too.

And I may be biased, but I’m crazy about people who build Little Free Libraries and keep them stocked for their community.

As a young adult, I once participated in a March of Dimes fundraiser in which I got people to pledge a penny for every mile I walked. I walked 12 miles for all those pennies, and couldn’t walk for days afterward. I admire that kind of effort a lot more than some rich person who throws a million dollars at a cause and doesn’t even feel its loss. The sacrifice and the commitment is the thing.

There really are a lot of people out there who want to do good. We are all in this together. That realization is why I haven’t lost all hope.


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A Romantic Day Trip

I often think of one of my favorite movies, As Good As It Gets. And one of my favorite quotes therein is by Carol, played by Helen Hunt:

“I want your life for one minute where my biggest problem is someone offering me a free convertible so I can get outta this city.”

We all need a change of scenery every once in a while, don’t we? I think the most romantic thing you can do for a person is provide them with that, if even for just an afternoon. Experiencing something different together, being able to breathe a little deeper, having the opportunity to set your worries aside and gain new perspective, is how you make wonderful memories. And wonderful memories are the bedrock of a relationship.

It doesn’t have to be expensive. It could be a walk in the woods with a picnic basket. It should just be a brief respite from the every day.

Of course, I’m not opposed to expensive, either. Recently, dear husband and I drove along one of my favorite scenic byways, Chuckanut Drive. It stretches along the coast of Washington State between Bellingham and Burlington. The views are just gorgeous. We decided to stop for lunch at a delightful restaurant called The Oyster Bar and indulge in an incredible dining experience.

First of all, this restaurant is perched on top of a cliff, and overlooks an actual working oyster bar. When the tide is low you can see the oysters. You can also see them on your plate.

We had an appetizer of baked oysters, topped with pancetta, heirloom tomato, chives, creamed spinach, and herbed bread crumbs. If the portion had been larger, I’d have been satisfied if this where my entire meal.

But for the main course, we decided to go with seafood stew, which included mussels, clams, prawns, scallops and fresh fish, simmered in a coconut/curry/lime broth with shitake mushrooms, snap peas, and basmati rice. The Salish Sea on a plate. Yum.

Even reading this makes me forget my troubles. What a memory. I highly recommend getting “outta” your city to make some memories of your own.

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