All posts by Gary

This rifle was a gift from my parents Christmas 1958. It still works, though it is rarely used these days. All it needs to be complete is the leather BB pouche that it came with, and maybe an old target or two. Oh yes, and a container of Daisy gun oil. If you’ve got any of the missing items, I can be reached at bizgary at hotmail dot com.

This circa 1930 glove was a gift from neighbor Don Donnelly in the 1950’s, when our family lived in Van Nuys, California. It hasn’t been used for decades, but every once in a while I take it out of storage and oil it to keep the leather in good shape.

By Gary Williams, August 2020

I’ve been retired from work for 15 years, so a friend who is about to retire asked me to name the best book I’ve read about retirement, the best podcast I’ve listened to on the subject and the name of a retirement coach I found helpful.   What follows is my answer.

  1. Best book:  The Bible.  I’m not being pious or dismissive of your question.  This is true not only for retirement planning, but for every aspect of life, as I’ve found true over and over during the past 70-plus years.
  2. Podcast:  While I am a tenacious researcher on topics that interest me, I don’t listen to podcasts.  I prefer to read.  That said, I don’t recall any particular works about retirement that I found memorable.
  3. Retirement coach:  The retirement experiences of two friends, both close in age to my Dad, greatly influenced me.  Si Miller, a friend met in a long-term Bible study, was one.  Dr. Stan Johnson was the other.  Si retired from a lucrative career in the commercial roofing industry.  Stan retired after decades of serving as a senior pastor, his last stop being Saratoga Federated Church, where we met him.  Both were men of strong faith, regular in prayer and Bible study and both were people-persons. 

Si always developed and cultivated relationships, which is probably why he made so much money selling large commercial roofing projects.  He became a mentor to dozens of younger men and women while volunteering with Young Life in his earlier years and, after retirement, by having two or three coffee or lunch dates with different individuals nearly every day of the week.  He was a generous friend, an informal counselor, a tenacious fundraiser for ministries and, at times, a pain in the butt, but he was always available and he cared for us all.  Si filled his days with many different ministry opportunities, besides taking care of his seriously ill wife. Si was one of the few men I’ve ever known who regularly called people, just to say hello.  And, when he read a book about faith that he liked, he would buy 15 or 20 and give them to people he thought would benefit from them.  These are habits learned from Si that I’ve tried to carry on in my own abbreviated form.

When Stan was our senior pastor we knew him to be a warm, caring man who was a wonderful Bible expositor, but we didn’t get to know him well until he retired.   He used his retirement freedom to volunteer his time coaching younger pastors and in various other helping ministries.  He also got to know people like Raelene and me more deeply than had been possible when serving as senior pastor at a 1200-member church full of Silicon Valley movers and shakers who kept him hopping.  I watched how Stan and Si handled themselves before and after retirement and learned from them … and we discussed what had changed when their work situations changed. 

General thoughts about retirement

•  Everything we plan and do is best undergirded with Bible study, prayer and meditation.
•  Sometimes our plans work out, sometimes they don’t.  Our job is to create our best plan and
then prepare to roll with the surprises.
•  The absolute best thing we can do with our retirement is learn how to listen more closely to
God.  He will guide us along the correct path if we let Him.
•  It takes a while to get any work “poison” out of our system and heal (adapt to our new
freedoms).  Dreams about missed deadlines and other work pressures are not unusual. 
Feeling lost is not unusual.  Getting under a spouse’s feet is not unusual.
•  All retirees are different.  What we want out of retirement is different. What we think we
need financially is different.  What our spouses want out of us in retirement is different.
•  Some people feel lost when they retire because – whether they realize it or not — their self
worth is based on their job and/or income.  Some feel lost because they were consumed by
work for so long they did not develop friendships, hobbies, or volunteer activities outside of
work.  These are the people most likely to experience anxiety and/or grief when no longer
working.  Others see retirement as a new phase of life, one in which they have more freedom
to serve God, travel, make new friends, spend more time with family, learn new skills, etc. 
•  It’s important to plan times when we are not with our wives and times when we are.  Raelene
and I respect our different approaches to each day; we don’t ask that one conform to the
other.  We go places together and work on projects together, but we also do things
separately.  We’ve learned that it is good to give one another space on a regular basis.  Once
he stopped working, my Dad, an electrical engineer, almost never left my Mother’s side.  That
wasn’t healthy for him or her.  Lack of “alone time” is one of the common complaints we’ve
heard from wives whose husbands retired and didn’t know what to do with their time. 
Another complaint is that some men become so involved in new activities that even though
they are retired, they still don’t have time for their wives or families.
•  The Bible doesn’t say anything about retirement — I’ve searched – which leads me to believe
we are not expected to retire from serving God as long as we’re on this earth.     

Our personal retirement story

Raelene and I met when she babysat for my older sister.  Raelene was in her early teens. We attended the same church and got to know each other a little later, when I was a college student leading the church’s high school youth group.  We’ve been married for more than half a century.  A while after we purchased our company in the 1980’s, I quit the corporate world. Raelene and I then worked together every day for 20+ years.  We ran a busy and successful design and manufacturing business in Silicon Valley using an unconventional – though Biblical — model.  We divided responsibilities based on our expertise and abilities, and always made major decisions together.  One of us never ruled over the other.  If we did not agree, we talked, prayed and waited for a decision we could both live with. 

We began to think about retirement when I was about 50 (1996).  We’d both spent most of our lives in the Santa Clara Valley.  We wondered what it would be like to live where there were seasons, where it was less crowded, where it was less costly and where the pace of life was less frantic.  What followed were about eight years of research that included vacations designed to acquaint us with different areas of California and other states, from west coast to east.

While this was going on, I took a college class on how to prepare for selling a business.  I also began talking to friends who had sold businesses.  Next, I wrote a plan to prepare our company for eventual sale.  It included the specific steps needed to fine-tune our facilities, organizational structure, operating systems and base of major clients.  The objective was to make our business an attractive, turn-key operation for someone with money to cash us out, though not necessarily any expertise in our field.  This plan eventually resulted in finding that very type of buyer in 2005.

We did not list the business for sale, however, until we did something we had never done before.  In late 2000, having recently moved into a large new manufacturing facility that we completely remodeled at our expense, Raelene and I took a day off of work – something we rarely did.  We spent that entire day at home with phones off.  We fasted, prayed, read Scriptures and wrote in journals for hours without speaking.  At the end of the day, we shared where we were at.  As usually happens with us, we arrived at the same conclusion.  It was time
to list our business for sale with an acquisitions and sales broker we knew. 

Not long after putting our company on the market, 9/11 turned our world upside down.  Business came to a screeching halt in a matter of minutes.  Weeks later, with Silicon Valley still in shock and building projects cancelled or not started, we had to second-mortgage our house to make payroll and keep our business from going under.  At that point, we took the company off the market until we could build it back to what it was before 9/11.  That plan changed too, though.  We were only about two-thirds of the way back to our previous sales volume by 2004 when we realized we were worn out and in need of a major life change.  Our company went back on the market.  Prayer once again undergirded our process.

We didn’t yet have a plan in place for how to retire or where to retire to, but we had been reading everything we could find on the subject, not that much of it seemed relevant to us.  I don’t remember finding any experts on retirement who factored the Author of Life into the equation.  We decided to stick with the plan we had been forming, but remain flexible to God’s will.  Our trust was in His wisdom and timing regarding our next phase of life.   

What happened next is that in the spring of 2005, when our broker was in the initial stages of working with the eventual buyer of our business, we flew from California to Portland with George and Casey Elliott.  We all were thinking that the Vancouver area might be a good place to retire.  Casey was our guide, having grown up at Fort Vancouver as the daughter of an Army physician who was based there.  Though we didn’t find any properties that interested us, we had an eventful dinner with a couple Casey knew from high school.  They mentioned Sequim, a place we’d never heard of.  It sounded interesting.

A few days later, a California friend offered to let us stay in a huge Victorian house he’d purchased in Port Townsend, which is about 20 miles from Sequim.  What a coincidence.  Ha!  We took another couple to Washington with us and explored the Olympic Peninsula for the first time.  We loved it, especially Sequim.  After arriving at home, we went back to prayer and talking between ourselves.  As a result, we decided to buy property in Sequim in preparation for moving there.  After years of not having a buyer for the company or a clue where we wanted to live, suddenly things were falling into place.

We couldn’t tell anyone what we were doing for fear of employees or clients bailing on us when they found out what we were planning, but a week later we flew back to Sequim, toured properties with a realtor and purchased two buildable parcels on about 7 acres of beautiful land.  Our plan was to build on one parcel, move in and then build on the other.  We would then move to the second house and sell the first.  We thought we’d enjoy serving as our own contractors while continuing to earn a living. This was about a year before the Olympic Peninsula building boom went bust for several years.  Thankfully, though we never got to build on those lots, we did eventually sell them for a profit.

Regarding the sale of our business, God’s timing was perfect.  Neither Raelene nor I had ever been seriously ill or injured before, but on the same October day in 2005, when we were working to conclude the sale of our business to the man who now owns it, she was in an auto accident that injured her badly and I came down with a serious illness that required 13 surgeries and dozens of doctor visits over the next five years.  I had no idea that the weird October day would be the last I would ever work.  Even though Raelene was in a lot of pain, she ran the company until December and I dealt the sale of the business, mostly by phone (I was on heavy doses of prescription drugs. It’s a good thing our broker was honest and we already had the business ready to sell).   The deal was completed in December of 2005.

Our plan to sell the business, travel for a year and then build houses in Sequim went by the wayside.  Instead, during our first year of retirement we sold our historic home in Santa Clara, bought a house in Sequim and spent most of our time on doctor visits and hospital stays.  Remember, neither of us had ever been ill or injured before.  We drove the 2,000-mile round trip between Sequim and Kaiser Hospital in Santa Clara about every six weeks for the first couple of years.

So, in summary, we had a plan, things happened unexpectedly and our plan changed.  Through it all – over the past 15 years – we’ve tried to focus on how God wants us to live.  It’s an on-going process; a daily process.   Even though our plan is constantly being amended, retirement has been good and we have been at least somewhat useful to family, friends, neighbors and various ministries.   

Have I ever missed the frantic pace we kept when both of us worked 60-80 hours a week to make sure we could satisfy our clients and pay our employees, landlord, suppliers and various government entities … while serving on church and parachurch boards, leading Bibles studies and teaching classes, volunteering in ministries and working on hobbies?  Not for a second.  It may have taken an illness and an auto accident to slow us down, but both led us to where God wanted us to go.

In 2018, after 35 years of owning my beloved GTV, I sold it to a collector who lives on the east coast. It was not an easy decision, but the time had come. Why, you ask? When I bought it I was in my 30’s and loved nothing more than to take fast drives on winding mountain roads. I was good at car control. A favorite thing was to enter a curve at speed and, just for the sheer fun of it, kick the tail out, drift the car through the apex, feel the tires bite and then shoot forward out of it. As the years went by, I put a lot of time and money into modifications that improved the Alfa’s power and its ability to stick to the road. Yes, it was restomoded. Except for being a little lower to the ground and having fatter tires, it looked stock, though it was far from it. The mods enabled me to drive the Alfa even faster than before. Rev matched heel and toe downshifts came so naturally, I didn’t realize I was doing it, including when driving around town. As a result, even my Sunday-best right shoes had odd wear marks on the side.

As the car aged, the originality and rust free nature of its body made it more rare and more valuable, and I became uncomfortable leaving the Alfa parked on city streets or in parking lots, especially when traveling. And then there was the “me” factor. When I got into the Alfa I could not make myself drive it like the old guy I’ve become; it always brought out the hooligan in me. So, after finally deciding it was time to let the car move on to its next caretaker, I made sure to give all the grandkids rides, which we recorded on video. After one last wash, it went on a transporter and headed across the country.

It’s not all sad, though. I still need a manual tranny car, just to maintain some semblance of my lost youth, so the Alfa was replaced with a 2008 Porsche Cayman S. I then switched out the Porsche’s cheap plastic gear shift tower for an all aluminum custom unit from Numeric Racing. The sloppy Porsche shift is cured now, but I’m still learning to heel and toe the Cayman.

I’ve never named my cars, but after seeing this snapshot, the Alfa became “Twiggy” and the Porsche became “Kimmy.” Figure it out, folks. Think skinny model and publicity-hungry woman with wide caboose.

Discovering the Teen Jesus, By Felicia Silcox

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What Did Jesus Do All Day?, published by Church Publishing, Inc., bridges two worlds―the one we know today and the one Jesus knew in the Holy Land under Roman rule. Archaeological discoveries, historical writings, and early-Jewish studies continue to uncover what everyday life was like back then. Surprisingly, as the distant past comes into sharper focus, similarities emerge that are far beyond sharing basic needs like food, drink, sleep, companionship and housing. Like us, Jesus’ contemporaries worked and studied hard, worshiped in community, and observed holidays with family and friends. Like us, they struggled with temptation and sin, failure and loss, political upheaval and war, betrayal and violence, sickness and death. Somehow, the closer we look into Jesus’ world, the more familiar it feels―and the more his words ring true.

Raelene and Gary Williams highly recommend this book! You can order a copy from Amazon or click here to go to a website created by the author.

On the website you’ll find a variety of excellent resources that cover what the world was like when Jesus was growing up. Topics include: Biblical Archaeology, Dead Sea Scrolls, Ancient Writings, Jewish Culture and Holy Land News.

Seriously Folks, let’s all try to keep the rubber side down!


While this trio of Alfas was out for a drive, the owner of the red ’67 GTV hit a bad stretch of pavement and rolled the car.  Driver and passenger walked away, shaken but not broken.  Still, this photo gives me serious heartburn.  Take a look at the license plate on what is now an expensive parts car; it reads “GTV 67.”  My garage holds an unsmashed red 1967 stepnose, like the one in the photo,  my California license plate used to read: “A67GTV.”


See nearly 20 pages of Alfas and other Italian cars and bikes. Find the links in the right column, under “Categories.”

The following is a list I made for myself to use when removing and reinstalling my 1967 GTV’s 2L motor.  While it is specific to my car, which has many custom pieces, this list may serve as a starting point for you.  Note that I don’t have heater lines to remove, because mine were taken off in 1983 to make the engine bay less cluttered (California delete option).  I also moved the fuse block inside the car, under the passenger side of the dash. 

Before dismantling anything, put the motor on TDC  (P) — with cam lobes pointed out and distributor rotor pointing to cylinder #1. This makes life easier if you’re going to remove the head or even if you plan to remove the timing chain.  The rotor moves in a clockwise direction, in this order: 1, 3, 4, 2.  Depending on how the oil pump was indexed when installed, your rotor may point in a different direction than my car when it is aimed at #1 .  The key is to have the cylinder #1 cam lobes pointed out and the distributor rotor on cylinder #1, when the engine is on TDC (P).   Check the your plug wires as they fit into the distributor cap, beginning with #1, and proceeding around the clock to 3, 4 and 2.  On my car, the rotor is aimed down on #1 (6 o’clock).
Take pictures of wiring before removing any to aid reinstall process
Take off the good lifting bracket and put on the old, scratched bracket
Remove hood
Remove front sway bar
Drop one side of steering center link
Disconnect and remove battery
Drain sump
Drain radiator
Remove radiator thermostat sensor from radiator (I have an electric fan)
Detach wires from radiator fan (one slip-on and on ground to same post as battery ground)
Remove radiator

Passenger side of engine
Remove spark plug wires and distributor cap
Disconnect oil temp and oil pressure wires
Disconnect fuel line and linkage to carbs (when reassembling, don’t forget to attach the carb to block ground)
Remove  carbs (easier to get motor in and out – my carbs are attached to long aluminum mounts)
Remember to reinstall the ground strap from rear carb to block.
Disconnect wires from coil to distributor  (note which goes where – a photo helps those of us with aging brains)
Detach oil vapor line from cam cover & remove vapor canister
Detach vacuum line at rear of engine
Disconnect wires from starter, after first noting what goes where
Disconnect bolts that hold motor mount to frame
Remove bolts to tranny, which removes starter (be careful to note which is the starter shoulder bolt and remember which bolts are longer, which have nuts on end)  When reassembling, don’t forget to reattach the block to frame ground.

Driver side of block
Unhook wires to alternator (one main and one slip-on for ammeter warning light)
Remove alternator (not necessary, but makes life easier)
Disconnect bolts that hold motor mount to frame
Remove good engine lifting bracket from cylinder head and replace with old one (to keep the good one from getting scratched)
From under car, remove as much of exhaust system as necessary to disconnect it from the exhaust header.  (My header won’t come off until the engine is lifted slightly off its mounts.  Installation also requires the engine to be lifted slightly. It also helps on my car if I have have an assistant under the car to slide the header tube into the exhaust pipe)
Remove the lock nuts from the exhaust header with 10mm small socket set and end wrench.  Leave header on the studs until the engine is lifted slightly, so there’s room to pull it off. (Custom header)
Put at least 4” of wood block spacers under the two front tires, to lift the car enough so the engine hoist feet will slide under the car
With rear of car on ground, engine should lift right out using a standard portable hoist

Engine install notes
On my block, there is one sensor on  driver’s side near bottom of engine that is for a 2L car’s warning light.  The sensor is there to fill the hole; it gets no wire)
If the oil dipstick housing was removed after the engine was taken out, reinstall it before the engine goes back in
Lightly grease the transmission pilot shaft
If you’ve used a pilot shaft alignment tool to install your clutch and pressure plate, installation of the motor should not be difficult, though it may take some fiddling to slide the clutch onto the pilot shaft
DO NOT FORGET TO DROP THE STEERING CENTER LINK.  If you don’t, the motor won’t go in and you’ll bend the link trying

After the engine is in
Check that oil drain plug and oil filter are tight
Add engine oil
Put assembly lube on the cam lobes
Fill the cylinder head galleries with oil
Install rear cam cover oil seals with light coating of sealant (Ultra Grey is good)

By Hillarie Williams
Written as a 20-year-old college sophomore

I adore my car.  I can tell you honestly, without a doubt, that I love my car more than any other possession I own.  I don’t love my car merely for its looks (sleek and red), for how it drives (very fast, especially around those freeway clover leafs), or even for what it is (a 1971 Alfa Romeo Spider).  I love my car, because my Dad built it for me.

My dad has always owned Alfas.  He knows how to fix almost any problem with them.  He also knows how to put them together.  When I was about 12 he bought two Spiders to use as parts cars for still another Alfa, some kind of rare convertible, a GTC I think.  Then he began to talk about using the Spiders to make a convertible for me.

img276 Hill's Spider & dollhouse

I was a little young to think seriously about driving, but after a while I began to picture myself at 16, driving to high school in my hot red car, with the top down and the breeze blowing through my hair — attracting the eyes of every adolescent guy worthy of my attention.  I didn’t think ahead to the hours and hours of hard work putting together a car would entail, or to the six long years it would take to pay it off.  Yup, my car was headed to the junk yard until I magnanimously saved it from an untimely demise.

Dad started working on it and I started working to pay for it when I was in the seventh grade.  All dad asked for was $2500, although he spent thousands more.

As he tirelessly built my car, I tried to help him as best I could, though I’m afraid I wasn’t always as helpful as I should have been.  I can remember Saturday mornings sitting on the cement driveway, looking through buckets and buckets and buckets of bolts, searching for that precise one to fit the frame for the convertible top.  As my friends spent their adolescent weekend hours at the mall shopping for trendy ESPIRIT outfits, I attempted to play the grease monkey at home.

Those were the days of holding the slotted screwdriver for my Dad as he peered into the engine compartment, trying to maneuver around the transmission to screw in some rebellious screw.  Or my dad, asking me for the 13 mm socket for the socket wrench.  Where is it Dad?  And what exactly is a socket again?  He must have been so frustrated with me, but he never gave in despite the occasional argument about whether I should go to the beach on Sunday or hold the screwdrivers and wrenches as he installed the steering wheel and console.  Dad usually won.

Finally, in October of my junior year in high school, my car was finished; a racing red Alfa Romeo, tan interior, tan top, fat tires, aggressive sounding Ansa exhaust.  I must admit that I look pretty good in my car, and I’ve gotten more than my fair share of whistles and comments — though none from those adolescent high school boys I had dreamed about.

It’s amazing the number of people who think they can talk to you about anything if the convertible top is down and you’re stopped at a red light.  One old guy asked me for directions to the nearest Longs Drug Store.  Some other gentleman wanted to know the life history of my car.  Others just chat about the weather or traffic conditions.

I like the friendly waves from other Alfa drivers.  It seemed a little odd at first, waving at strangers, but now it makes me feel like I’m part of their big, happy Alfa family.  And I enjoy the attention.

It’s been five years since I first drove my car, five years of powering through corners, cruising top down around town, visiting the sunny California beaches from Santa Barbara to Santa Cruz.  It’s also been five years of oil changes, minor glitches, and major repairs — all performed by my faithful dad and a couple of his Alfa friends.  In fact, no one except them is allowed to fiddle with the engine or make other repairs.

As with all Italian cars, the road to vehicular perfection is a long one indeed.  There is always some sly hose or belt that breaks at the most inopportune moment.  Like the time I was trying to go to a movie with a friend and the fuel line split open.  I had just picked up Rebecca.  We were in the car, ready to go.  I turned the key and … nothing.  No powerful 1750 engine roaring to life, just silence and a brief moment of panic.  Becca got out to look under the car as I prayed that it would start, prayed so hard I thought blood would ooze from my skin instead of sweat.  Still nothing.  We called my dad.  When he arrived, the first thing he pointed out was a huge puddle of clear liquid flowing down the gutter — the gasoline from my precious car.  How did we miss this?  The fuel line had broken under the car, right next to the hot exhaust pipe and it nearly blew us to Tahiti.

My car manifests yet another problem when it rains — it leaks, badly.  For this reason, I have two car covers; a faded green one for assuredly clear weather and a blue plastic tarp for rainy weather.  Unfortunately, the forecaster occasionally misjudges the chances of rain, and I am forced to quickly blue-cover my car, or suffer the consequences, seats squishy with water.  I also have a cream-colored plastic bucket I must place under the floor pedals to catch the rainwater that leaks from who knows where under the dash   I also have stacks of towels ready at all times for those surprise spring showers.

Take last Thursday for example.  (It wasn’t the first time we were caught unaware, only the most recent.)  My college roommate, Karen,  leaned over from the top bunk and croaked those dreaded words, “Hill, it’s raining.”  I rolled out of my warm bed like a log down a grassy knoll, put on my tan Keds, grabbed my purple rain coat from the hall closet, and put it over my green nightshirt (hoping no one would be awake to see me at 4:30 am).  Then I ran to the kitchen for a flashlight, raced to the car, and tossed the bucket under the floor pedals, where it could catch the gallons of rain water I knew would find their way into my car to create havoc, rust and general messiness.   (Father’s note:  On a subsequent visit home from school, we found the leak, a broken hose on a cowl drain that runs under the dash. It was repaired in 10 minutes).

You may wonder why I keep such a mishap-prone car. The answer is easy on a sunny Northern California day or when I’m taking a fast corner.  Alfas are great fun.  Even so, the time has come for me to sell my beloved vehicle.  It makes me sad to think of parting with it, but what I really want in my next car is weather proofing and automatic door locks.  It takes me forever to get out of my Alfa — put on the CLUB, lock the CLUB, take off the removable face of my anti-theft car stereo, put it in its box, put the box in my purse, take off my seat belt, get out of the car, shut the door and check that no valuables are left in view.  It’s like Tammy Faye taking off her makeup  — chisel off the blush, scrape off the eye shadow, gingerly remove the ten-inch fake eyelashes …the process just keeps getting longer and longer.

It’s time now for me to move into a new phase of car ownership, one with fewer near explosions and leaks, and most definitely one with power door locks.  I’m ready to trade fun for convenience. Perhaps I will buy a gold BMW 325 or a metallic blue Geo Prism.  Something less demanding than an aging Alfa; something more fitting for a school-teacher-to-be than a bright red convertible.

(Hillarie sold the Spider after graduating from college and taking her first teaching job all the way across the country in Atlanta, Georgia.  Her next car, which Dad helped to choose, was a used Audi 4000S, which combined a bit of sportiness with the other features she was looking for.  She next moved to a new Saturn.  Now that she is a mom, with husband, house and two young children … she drives a minivan.  We’ve never seen the Alfa since the new owner drove it away, which is sad.  It came to us as a completely stripped rolling chassis, was a fun father-daughter project, and turned into a beauty of a 1750 Spider. )