12th Day of Christmas – The Gift of the World

(I’m following these prompts for the 12 Days of Christmas)

John 3:16-17

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

View from my walk

My heart rises up in thanks and praise as I see the world I live in – the sky, the trees, the sound, the mountains – no wonder “God saw all that God had made, and it was very good.” Genesis 1:31a

My Life Right Now

I promised I’d give you a peek at what my life is like here at Franke Tobey Jones.


I take a shower, get dressed, fix my tea, load any leftover dishes or glasses into the dishwasher, eat a breakfast bar, feed the birds, water the flowers, check my email, read all the blogs I’ve received in my RSS reader, check the bank account, do a Curvy puzzle, work a jigsaw puzzle on-line, check Ancestry.com to see if anybody has posted anything interesting about any of the ancestors, check Facebook to see what’s happening, read the New York Times headlines, the Huffington Post shorts, updates from Knitting Paradise (and read the whole article if it interests me). By that time, it’s probably 11:00 or 11:30 and time to think about lunch.

We eat our dinner at noon and each fix our own snack-type suppers – soup, sandwich, fruit and cheese, nachos, etc.


About 5:30 or 6:00, Big Al and I meet in the living room to watch the news and Rachel Maddow. If there’s anything on network or cable that we want to see, we watch that (not often); otherwise, we watch something on Netflix.com. Right now we’re watching the British series, “M-I 5“, and “All Creatures Great and Small.” We usually get one or two episodes a night of each. Followed by the local news, and Jay Leno’s monologue, and finally – to bed.


Bethany Presbyterian Church worships at 10:30 and Sunday School is out for the summer. During most of the rest of the year, Sunday School is at 9:00.

Big Al and I go out to lunch after church, often on the waterfront.


Many Sundays we take a ride after lunch, sometimes through Point Defiance Park, sometime exploring.

Old Growth Forest

Because I probably didn’t get anything from my daily routine done except the shower and the tea and breakfast bar, I spend a couple of hours in the afternoon catching up on my on-line reading. By that time, it’s 4:00 or so, and I go over to the Wellness Center to spend 50 minutes on the recumbent cross trainer (my personal preference for exercise torture). I try to get in three sessions a week of exercise, so Sunday is my make-up day if I’ve been a slug otherwise. If I don’t have to exercise, I spend an hour or so enjoying the porch and reading in my rocking chair.


Every other week I get together with other residents and a genealogist who gives us tips about how to get past the roadblocks in our research and where to find more information. She also helps us with presentation of our research and encourages us to include stories rather than just facts.

Every week, Big Al and I go to the Gamers Club and play bridge or some other game over in the Tobey Jones building. We only stay for an hour, but we enjoy the folks who make up the foursome – a retired federal judge, and a retired school teacher.

Once a month, the chef has a program on nutrition, or some other interesting topic. He also brings goodies to sample. Recently he has talked about protein, the difference between shrimp and prawns, diabetic diets, etc.

I try to fit in my 50 minutes of torture at the Wellness Center on Monday afternoons as well, sometimes before Gamers Club, sometimes, after.

Once a month I have a meeting of the Pierce County Hunger Advocates – part of the Ministerial Alliance.


Big Al and I eat lunch in the Bistro (think Starbucks or local coffee shop) here on campus. They have sandwiches, soup, and salads, and we usually each have a chef salad.

Then, I scurry off to my Tai Chi lesson, while Al finishes his lunch and reads the newspaper.

After Tai Chi, we go over to the Garden Apartments where we play bridge with a foursome we have been playing with ever since we lived there.

Then, it’s back to the Wellness Center for an hour or so of Brain Games. We play word games (like Scattergories) as teams, have paper games to work on, and have some social time. It’s fun, and a way to stretch my mind, and hopefully fend off the on-set of Alzheimer’s a little longer.


Wednesdays are the least structured of my week.

Wednesdays are often the day for trips. So far (since the weather has turned decent this summer), we’ve been to a winery, and the Wildlife Park. There’s a lunch cruise scheduled for next week.

Big Al volunteers at the FISH Food Bank once every six weeks. He also has a luncheon meeting of the state Safety Association in Tukwilla once a month.

I try to get in my 50-minute work out on Wednesday afternoons.

Wednesday is also the day we go to the commissary, about once every 6 weeks.

If you have a birthday or anniversary during the month, you are invited (with your significant other) to a lunch either in the Tobey Jones dining room, or the Lillian Pratt dining room on the last Wednesday of the month.

Often there are interesting programs on Wednesday afternoons, from the Tacoma Historical Society, a gardening expert, or on some other topic. Once a month, we have a program on wines.

Once a quarter, all the independent residents are invited to a dinner, usually on a Wednesday evening. There’s one coming up in a week.


Once a month, the CEO hosts Coffee with the CEO on Thursday mornings. Anyone who wants to can come and ask questions and air grievances. Generally everyone is pretty happy with how everything is going.

On Thursdays at 12:30 I have my second Tai Chi lesson of the week.

There’s also often a program from Senior University on Thursday afternoons.

At 4:00 is the All-Campus Wine and Cheese, where we are invited to lift our glasses and socialize with other residents and the board.


Friday morning at 11:00 I scurry over to Lillian Pratt for the Knitter’s Club. There are 5 or 6 of us who get together and chat while we do some kind of handwork. There’s a retired college president who is learning how to knit to keep his hands and brain busy, as well, and we can ask the others for help if we run into a problem. They always provide us with coffee, tea, and a goodie to stave off starvation until lunch time.

Friday is one of our lunches out. Once a month, the community takes the bus to a local eatery with whoever wants to go. We’ve been to a Japanese place, a Mexican place, an Indian place, an Italian place and a seafood place. If the Lunch Bunch isn’t going, Big Al and I find our own place for a nice lunch out.

The community has Ice Cream on the front porch at Lillian Pratt every Friday afternoon in the summer.

The Garden Apartments have Happy Hour on Friday afternoons. Everybody brings a little snackie-poo, and they provide wine and hard liquor (and soft drinks). We like going because it gives us an opportunity to catch up with the folks from the Garden Apartments.

Once a month, they have “Chef’s Table” that you have to sign up for. Chef Tim plans a specially nice menu and prepares it table-side, while he talks about the ingredients and preparation. It’s limited to 12 people, so it’s a nice opportunity to visit with other residents over a wonderful meal (with unbelievable desserts).


For the most part, Saturday is a day of catch-up. This is my day to work out (so I won’t have to on Sunday afternoon). We also go to the grocery store, hit the garden shop, buy more bird feed, etc.

So that’s what I do all the time. I’m just as busy as if I weren’t retired, but I really love it.

Things are progressing

Yesterday, we had workmen in the house all day. We have a new furnace and new thermostat. This morning we woke up and it was still 64 deg in the house. The heater hadn’t kicked on like it was supposed to. So I called maintenance, and they called the heater man, and he came back and fixed whatever it was that was wrong. And the rest of the day, it’s been nice and toasty. But it’s pretty nice outside, too, so who knows what tomorrow morning will bring.

We also had the fellow come and hook up the DVD and amp to the TV. He was here most of the day, but he did a wonderful job of corralling the wires, and he got everything hooked up so we can watch DVDs again.


Next week (hopefully) we’ll have the man in to wire the Cat 5 into the living room, and we can have streaming Netflix, again.

We also had the fellow from maintenance in to install grab bars in the tub (don’t ask me why they ever built a bathroom in a retirement community with a tub and didn’t put grab bars in it). He didn’t get completely finished yesterday, but he came back this afternoon and got it all taken care of. Anyway, now Big Al can use the shower in the tub (which is a hand-held like he prefers) and I can use the stall shower in the second bathroom, like I prefer.

Today was one of my “non-cooking” days, and the sun was out beautifully, so we went down to Boathouse 19 and had big old, slimy old, juicy old hamburgers, sitting by the boats in the Marina, looking at the Narrows Bridge and the sound.

Boat House 19

Living here makes all those years of hot, dry desert worth it!

Advent Three – Tuesday

Isaiah 11:1-9

This summer, Sarah Wiles, the pastor at Bethany Presbyterian Church, preached a sermon on this text. She told a story that is very familiar to those of us who live in sight of Mt. Rainier.

When she and her husband were interviewing for the position at Bethany, they came to visit in early March, in the time of grey days and cloudy, weeping skies. Everyone they talked to said “Just wait until you see Mt. Rainier. It’s so beautiful.” Sarah and her husband nodded, and looked East whenever they were outside, but they didn’t see anything except grey skies.

They returned to visit and look for a house in May, and the skies greeted them with clouds and rain. Everyone again reiterated how beautiful the mountain was on clear days. They were beginning to doubt whether there was any mountain out there, or, if there was, they doubted it was as spectacular as everyone was telling them.

They found a house, returned to their previous post, packed up their things, and moved to Tacoma in early June. After settling in, she started working at Bethany, and then, one day, she was driving home and came around the corner – and THERE WAS THE MOUNTAIN! She almost drove off the road looking at it.

IMG_0585 - Copy

Now, she knows that the mountain is there all the time, whether she can see it or not.

The mountain is like God’s love. Sometimes we can’t see it because it is hidden by events or the weather or some for some other reason, but it is ALWAYS there – beautiful, solid, lasting. And once you’ve seen it, you’ll never doubt that it is there just waiting for the clouds to clear.

They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.


The Olympic Loop, Day 2

It was cloudy, windy, and cool (cold to this Southern gal) on Wednesday, but we were warm and snug in the car as we drove north along the shore road onto the Quinault Indian reservation. They have closed their beaches, but we were able to ride along the coast road and into their little village where we saw a brackish harbor at low tide, with thousands of seagulls. in the fresher water.

There was a fellow in a boat fishing about half-way across the little river (you can just see him through the guard rail).

There were lots more gulls fishing and pottering around in the shallows farther inland.

After leaving the village, we stopped on the side of the road and looked at this little stream of fresh water coming down to meet the ocean. It was just full of seagulls.

Apparently even the gulls think the salt water is sticky and itchy, because they were venturing farther and farther up the stream to find fresh water to splash and bathe in.

They weren’t feeding or fishing, they were just splashing and playing in the water. They reminded me of my sparrows and finches in the bird bath outside my window.

We turned and looked back at the inlet by the village, and saw the headland and surf in the mist.

We drove farther south and found a little road that led down to the beach. You were forbidden to drive on the beach between April 1 and Labor Day, but we congratulated ourselves on taking this trip in September, and drove right down on the beach to watch the surf, listen to the waves, and become friends with the seagulls, who were very tame.

They didn’t seem at all frightened of us, just nonchalantly strolling out of our way as we approached.

We even got out of the car and walked a little way.

Yep, I got out of the nice warm car, too, for a little while.

Big Al was entranced with the wind and water erosion of the cliffs.

As bad as I am with pictures of lakes and rivers, Big Al wants pictures of structural geology formations.

You can see by the remains of the campfire that the water doesn’t come too far inland very often, but in stormy weather it can reach the bluffs. The wind also has taken care of some of the erosion.

And all the time we could hear the beat of the surf and the cries of the gulls.

Even on the road leaving the beach, Big Al spotted signs of the elemental sculpturing of the land.

And the trees guard the gullies, and the blackberry bushes keep the soil from disappearing.

After a day spent in the open air with the sun, and wind, and mist and all the wonders of the shore with surf, and birds, and erosion, we were ready to go back to our room, have an early dinner, and sleep the sleep of the thankful.

The next day we drove father south to Ocean Shores, and looked around the area, but it is obviously very touristy and overcrowded in the summer. We were thankful we were able to go in the off-season so we could enjoy the beach without falling over so many other folks.

The road home was good highway without too much traffic, and we arrived in mid-afternoon, much refreshed from our little vacation.

Mount St. Helens

I know I promised you a tour of Mount St. Helens a couple of days ago, but it seems like my time has just slipped away from me, and besides I wanted to “study up” so I could give you facts as well as impressions.

Before I start, I urge you to take 23 minutes a view this You Tube video. I had forgotten much of what it told me, although I don’t know that I paid that much attention to the eruption at the time. We were in England, and so slightly removed from the action, although we did have an unusually cool and cloudy summer that was attributed to the ash in the upper atmosphere. You also might enjoy this video that is about 45 minutes long and tells about the recovery of the mountain. For a shorter, more scientific look at what happened you can see this clip.

We arrived in the late morning at the Silver Lake Visitors Center.

From there you can see Silver Lake through the trees.

We stopped for lunch at Hoffstadts Bluff for lunch and got our first good look at the mountain.

You can see the Toutle River in the foreground and the deposits of ash/pumice that washed down the mountain after the eruptions.

At this distance from the mountain you can see the regrowth of pines and forests that were burned and scorched by the heat blast accompanying the eruption.

We visited the Johnston Ridge Observatory, 6 miles from the crater, named for one of the people killed on the mountain in 1980. He was an employee of the US Geological Survey and was studying the mountain hoping to predict what was soon to happen. His were the last words heard from Mount St. Helens on that fateful May morning, “Vancouver, Vancouver, this is it…”

From Johnston Ridge, you can see Spirit Lake just in the middle of the picture. The mountain just visible on the left is Mount Adams, another one of the string of sleeping sister volcanos.

There, just across the valley is the crater. You can plainly see the new lava dome building in the center of the crater, and wisps of steam escaping from a vent in the middle of the photo.

At the center, we saw the roots of blasted trees.

And by the foot of the blasted root, these flowers bravely poking out of the ashy soil.

The vegetation is recovering here at the Johnston Ridge Center.

Across the hills small trees are growing back…

…with flowers, and low bushes.

In the valley, by the little streams and the river, the birches have come back and are full-grown trees.

Looking back as we go down the mountain, we could see what looked like steam, both from the vent we saw from the Observatory on the left, and farther down on the right from a fissure at the base of the cone.

If you are interested in learning more about Mount St. Helens, Wikipedia has a couple of really good articles, one about the mountain itself, and one about the 1980 eruption.

The folks around here say that geologists think the next one to go will be Mt. Rainier. Parts of Tacoma are in the lava flow evacuation area, but we should be safe on our hill (from my mouth to God’s ears!).

Point Defiance

I’ve probably mentioned that we live on the hill above Point Defiance Park.

The road in front of our apartment is the south border of the park between Pearl and Vessault. We took a drive around the park on the 5-mile drive last Sunday. Here are the pictures.

As you enter the park there is a large lawn and lake.

The visitor’s center

Some of the area is formal gardens, and some is wild. This is the rose garden.

They’re working on a Japanese pagoda and Zen garden.

There are lots of picnic tables and picnic areas, as well as trails all through the park.

This is the rustic picnic area.

There’s a sandy beach where folks can swim in the sound (this day it was overcast and 62 deg. and even the Tacomans didn’t want to swim.)

5-mile drive winds through old-growth forest.

There are plenty of lay-bys and viewpoints to see the Sound and the other shore. This is Vashon Island.

We can see across the narrows to Gig Harbor on the Olympic Peninsula.

Little boats on the Sound in the Narrows.

Interesting trees at the Tacoma Narrows Viewpoint

The Bridges that replaced Galloping Gertie across the Narrows.

There’s lots of wildlife in the park, including this fellow who posed for his portrait. There’s also a Zoo and an Aquarium.

There’s a living history museum, Ft Nisqually.

There are docents in historical garb in most of the buildings.

Very interesting.

The Tacoma Garden Club has an area devoted to native plants. Our fence is just behind this stand of trees.

And we’re back at the big lawn at the entrance/exit of the park.

Mt. Rainier

I know it’s been FOREVER since I put up a new post, and I know you’re DYING to see how we’ve managed to fit everything in to the one-bedroom apartment, but that’s going to have to wait for another day, because I want to show you the pictures from our trip to Mt. Rainier, yesterday.

Franke Tobey Jones has a  great little 21-passenger bus, and Gary, the driver, picked us up right outside our building at 9 o’clock sharp for the ride up the mountain. We had no idea what the weather would be like up there, so we dressed in layers, and took sun hats, and off we went.

We rode for about an hour and a half – first through cities and towns and on interstate – then through villages – and finally through towering forests with lovely wildflowers growing at the base of the trees.

Eventually we came to the entrance to the National Park. Of the 17 people on board, including the driver, we had 6 Golden Eagle/Golden Access passes, so we all got in free (each pass allows the owner and three other people to accompany them).

There are several park “villages” or inns on the mountain, and we passed one large one on our way to Paradise – which is as high as the bus could go.

Many little mountain streams were carrying snowmelt down the mountain through stands of old-growth forest.

This is the beginning of the Nisqually River that flows through Tacoma and empties into Puget Sound.

(Sorry for the blur on some of these pictures, but I was taking them through the bus window and I sometimes got a reflection.)

At one point the road crossed the river on a bridge that was high enough above the riverbed that Big Al declined to look out the window.

They’ve had a very late spring, so the real rushing torrent of snowmelt is only a trickle, still, in the middle of July.

The clouds were still hanging low in the trees and we began to despair of getting a good view of the top of the mountain.

There was still snow on the ground in patches and under the trees as we climbed higher and higher, even down below the treeline.

And then, just as we reached Paradise, the sun broke out! That will definitely preach!

We walked through the parking lot to the lodge where we had lunch with a wonderful view.

Sorry, I just couldn’t stop taking pictures of the beautiful blue sky, the alpine meadows, and the great snow-covered mountain.

This is the view back across the valley where the clouds were still hanging.

You can see there’s still an awful lot of snow on the ground, although we got downright hot in the sun, and were glad to have our hats.

The fields of lupine with paint brush reminded me of nothing so much as blue bonnets and paint brush in Texas in March.

About 2 o’clock we reboarded the bus for the ride down the mountain.

The ride down the mountain was like a movie running in reverse.

Back across the bridge, but this time looking up the mountain the way we had come.

I was intranced with the ferns growing in that alpine forest. I think of ferns in damp, southern marshlands.

I was able to snap a picture of one of the many waterfalls rushing down the cliffs at the edge of the road.

There was a little more sun as we went down, than when we were going up.

The rest of the ride was uneventful and we arrived back at Franke Tobey Jones close to 5 p.m.  A really great day!