Wednesday, January 29, 2014


AARP sponsors a tax prep program to benefit seniors and low income. The local chapter runs a week-long training course to certify preparers. Since Mike worked in tax prep before fully retiring last year, this activity seemed a good fit with his interests. After all, how tough could it be, right? – I say, right?

Tough! Mike studied the tax manual diligently and last week participated in the training session. I’m not sure what the real purpose of this senior activity is – to challenge oldsters through tax training or to actually provide the tax prep.

As the week went on, I could see that the training was stressful for Mike, but he persevered. Last weekend he took the tests, passed them, and is now a certified tax preparer. With that behind him, he looks forward to the actual work – if there is any.

Anyway – since Mike was busy last week I was left with the care and feeding of the dogs. Mike took them for their usual constitutional right after breakfast, and then he left for the day.

Usually Nellie and Bess nap all morning and then have a walk or hike in the afternoon, but when Mike isn’t here they’re nervous. They know he's gone and they aren't sure when he'll return. They begin to pester me early. Perhaps they know if they don't pester, they won't get much attention.

The routine doesn't vary much. Bess gets up, stretches, and casually moves into my space as Nellie surreptitiously watches her.

Up beside me on her forepaws, Bess leans between me and my laptop and says, “Me and Nell want to go for a walk.” (She does not practice good grammar.)

Coming even closer with her snout, she tests my breath like a connoisseur, nostrils working as her eyes focus away from my face. Then, she turns back to me with her assessment. “You ate something, didn’t you?” she accuses. “Don’t lie to me.”

Indignantly, I push her down. Meanwhile, Nellie, noticing that Bess’ effort has not brought results, rises to provide back-up.
“Lie down!” I command them both. “You’ve already had a walk.”

“EEEE-ow-errrr,” Bess complains, and Nellie turns to face the door. They have no intention of lying down.

They mill around. Bess gets in my face again. “Me and Nell really, REALLY want to go for a walk.”

And so it goes until finally I give in, put on my shoes, and take them for a walk. KW

[The pictures here were taken last Saturday, Jan. 25, when Mike took a break from his tax studies to geocache near Chief Timothy Island on the Snake River. The dogs love such outings.]

Saturday, January 25, 2014


Tired of condo living (613 square feet or so), Nick and Hallie were house shopping.

“Look at this house,” said the message from Hallie back in October 2013.

She had attached a picture of a cute little Tudor in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle. Rundown though it was, the curving walkway to the turreted entryway captured my imagination. It was really not my business, but I was hooked. I loved the vintage look of that old house.

Looking at the screen over my shoulder, an alarmed Mike remarked: “DO NOT encourage her.”

“What a great Halloween house!” I wrote back – and added that her dad was not impressed.

She agreed with me that the house had appeal but allowed that her dad was right. The house was in default and more than that, had unpaid utility bills -- and worse -- against it. The house was in a lot of trouble, she said – perhaps insurmountable.

A pity, I thought, that through no fault of its own, this old house was struggling. And when a house struggles, it drags the neighborhood down as well, although Hallie had said the location was good.

In my mind I began to envision the house garbed for Halloween – steam wafting up off a big black caldron in the yard while kids in Halloween garb danced up the curving walkway to the door. Then I pictured it in Christmas finery – a tree in the front window, strings of light draped over the bushes, snow nestling in the angles of the roof. (Like drifts of snow would ever happen in Seattle, but I can dream, can’t I?)

Someone will get to have that house, I thought to myself. Someone will get to bring it back to life. Why not Hallie and Nick? But – it was their choice, not mine. I was good. I stayed out of it. I said nothing more.

Weeks passed. Nick and Hallie made offers on several houses but lost out in the bidding war. They were bummed.

Then, suddenly, the little Tudor came into focus again. They crunched figures, taking into account that they would have to pay someone else’s bills in order to make this little fixer-upper their own. They made an offer, which was ultimately accepted. Then it was a waiting game. There were postponements and setbacks.

But things have a way of working out, and work out they did. Here are Nick and Hallie holding the keys to the little house. They have a big job ahead of them. Hallie says the house was built in 1929. The kitchen is very small and has never been updated and they aren’t sure what to do about that – and some other things.  But I have faith in them . . . and faith in the little house.Together they'll work it out -- step by step.

It reminds me of the children’s story, The Little House, by Viriginia Lee Burton, where the little house starts out all shiny and new, falls into disrepair, and then, many years later, someone comes along, recaptures the original vision, and makes it all new and shiny again. 

[Hallie says the photos here are "before" pictures.] KW

Wednesday, January 22, 2014


Grandma Ina called them “dull days,” these winter days where the sun doesn’t shine. We don’t get a lot of sun this time of year in the Inland Empire of the Pacific Northwest. And it’s winter – so it's dull in other ways.

Monday was Martin Luther King Day, a gray day and a somber holiday. Mike’s activity for that day fell through, so we decided to go geocaching. A new seven-fold multi-cache was available which has as its theme the various dog-friendly parks in and around our community, so we loaded Bess and Nell in the pick-up and headed out to the first one on Warner Avenue.

We discovered the cache wasn’t in the park per se but on the other side of the draw from where we stood. Bess had already squeezed under the fence and was gleefully hunting while Nellie poked around with us.

“It’s right over there,” said Mike, pointing to the other side of the draw. “I’m going to just hike over there from here.”

“You go right ahead,” I responded. “I’ll go back to the pick-up.” Somehow when we left the house I was distracted and didn’t grab my hat and gloves. I was cold. And besides, I knew that the hike would be difficult, that this approach was not what the cache owner had intended, and that it was likely impossible.

Once Mike was on the other side of the fence with Bess, Nellie wanted to go, too. Mike instructed me to help her by holding down the barbed wire, but before I could, she leaped over on her own. The little group headed on down into the draw while I stayed up top. I hadn’t gone far when they re-joined me. It was impossible to get through the brush in the bottom, Mike said, but they had seen lots of pheasants. The pheasants seem to be everywhere but where you can hunt them.

Long story short, Mike decided to approach the cache by means of a rigorous hike from another direction. Bess sque-e-e-ezed through the fence and Nellie hopped over with agility. I went to the pick-up. They were gone about 45 minutes, I think, and I took comfort knowing that everyone (except me) would be well-exercised today.

I was ready to go home when Mike and the dogs arrived back at the pick-up, but since the next “leg” of the cache was in our old neighborhood off Broadview Drive and on our way home, we decided to stop there and pick up the next co-ordinates, which indicated Hells Gate State Park. After lunch back at the house, Mike went for those on his motorcycle.

As it happened, the next cache was right in our own neighborhood, so Mike took Bess and Nellie, always eager for a hike with “fun guy,” and headed into the hills across the road from our house. He came back with the “cords” for the next leg which will take them to Chief Timothy Park when Mike has time.

The final cache will probably have dog toys or treats in it. We’ll see .. .

I took this last picture from the home of a friend yesterday, showing the Lewis-Clark community and the confluence of the Snake and Clearwater Rivers. KW