December 19, 2014

  • The Road to 65, Mile 20: Now, Then

    December 18, 2014-   I found out, early this morning, that someone had pushed the wrong button, in the course of my last financial transaction.  The deposit which should have been posted yesterday, never made it.  This will slightly alter my spiritual journey to western New Mexico, which I had planned on starting Friday night.  No matter, I will get a good night’s sleep here, and most likely be able to set out on Saturday morning.

    Zuni, where Penny and I first met, in December, 1980, is first on my itinerary. El Morro National Monument, near there, is next, and I will head, in succession, to Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, where we went crane watching, Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument and Silver City, which we wanted to visit, but never did, Cochise Stronghold (one of my favourite meditation spots), and Tucson, where a few friends await.

    Christmas weekend will find me at the Grand Canyon Baha’i Conference, where I have spent each of the past twenty-two years, save 1997.  It is a good place for spiritual regeneration, and coming on the heals of my time in the forests of western New Mexico and the serene desert near Vail and Avra Valley, it represents a double dose.  Of course, the crowds at GCBC are large, but I draw energy from the youth, and regard many of them as friends.  I have watched so many grow up from infancy, in the time I’ve been back in Arizona.  Now, they are taking on the world, on their own terms.

    I sat down this morning with several of the Red Cross Disaster Response Team members, with whom I would be working, if chosen for the position mentioned earlier.  There is a plethora of detail to be worked out, each time a disaster happens.  Good thing there is no ‘I’ in team.  I have had a lot of practice, these past two years, both here and in Europe, in being an effective member of a team handling somewhat chaotic emergencies.  There is a reason for everything.

    This evening gave me an hour’s worth of study on Essential Oils, vis-a-vis women’s health issues.  It is also going to come in handy, and this area was not something with which I had much familiarity, until now. That goes to show, in this day and age, an old dog had best learn new tricks, and skills, without hesitation.

December 18, 2014

  • The Road to 65, Mile 19: Green Chili and Coconut-Fennel Cookies

    December 17, 2014-  I could not really explain to the befuddled police officer why I slightly strayed over the broken lane line, on one of Prescott’s main streets, this morning.  I certainly wasn’t DWI- haven’t had a drink in 33 years, and I’m not on any meds.  I was feeling a bit woozy, though, so his pulling me over, mostly, it seemed, out of boredom, was a good thing.  I didn’t get anything more than a verbal caution, which nonetheless forced me to refocus on the here and now.

    I bought the cookie sheet I needed, went home and baked 1 1/2 dozen cookies, made with spelt flour, aluminum-free baking powder, a cage-free egg, fractionated coconut oil,shredded coconut, coconut sugar (unrefined), fennel and lemon oil.  The process of finding the cookie sheet, police encounter included, took one hour.  The mixing of ingredients and baking of the cookies took 25 minutes.

    I took the goodies down to a Red Cross luncheon in Phoenix.  It was a well-catered, Mexican food affair, to which the HR director and I were the last to arrive.  No matter; I missed the enchiladas, but had a good plateful of everything else.  I also got to watch the latter part of a white-elephant gift exchange, always good for a few laughs.  Once all was done, I offered my cookies to the group, as they headed back to their desks.  Each one who took a bite said the cookie was fabulous.  Mission achieved!

    After ascertaining from the HR Director that nothing more would be done, vis-a-vis the position for which I’m applying, until after New Year’s, I gassed up and headed back to Prescott.  This is the way of it:  The tasks which I undertake might involve driving 100 miles, for thirty minutes worth of , or they might mean walking five minutes, and spending five hours at a small desk.

    I’ve drawn the conclusion that it is all a matter of focusing on the what, the why and the who.  The how usually makes itself known, in process.  There is nothing too small or mundane, too grand or exotic.  There is no one too obscure, or overarching, in importance.  There is nothing too simple, or complex, in rationale.  All tasks end up equal in importance, in the end, as all tie together to make this series of events we call a life.

    I will, no doubt, make more cookies, before the week is out. There is another gathering on Friday evening, and before that, a friend or two to visit here in town.  Each one counts as much as the other, differing only in the intensity, and nature, of our relationship.  That’s how it is with a widower:  Those who fill the world, after one’s beloved departs for a purely spiritual presence, are loved strictly for their inherent humanity.  Ulterior motives serve no good purpose, and I have thus discarded them.  In the ensuing bliss, green chili is as good as its red cousin and cookies flavoured with essential oils are a joyful contribution.

December 17, 2014

  • The Road to 65, Mile 18: Sticks and Bricks

    December 16, 2014- Today was a whirlwind, even though there is no work this week, due to the approaching holidays.  Synchronicity, which is a fact of life for most of us, had me at a Slow Food gathering, which I had to leave early, so as to get back home for an online meeting.  Before that, there was laundry to get done, family cards to write out and send, and a bit of shopping to get ingredients for my cookie-baking exercise, tomorrow morning.

    How men and women treat one another is much on my mind.  I have known women who were abused by men, men who were abused by women, and those who trade abuse back and forth, like a flaming potato.  The old saw about hurting people who hurt people keeps singing my heart.

    Penny and I had differences of opinion, misunderstandings and “cool-down” periods, throughout our 29 years together.  We never, once, struck one another, never spent a day apart, and never slept separately out of hurt or anger.  I guess the whole idea was that nothing individual was more important than the unit that was our pairing, and then the family that started with the conception of our son, in October, 1987, cemented by his birth nine months later.

    When there are disagreements between my friends, be they online or real time, I hold back from choosing sides.  I do not, once, favour a person who chooses violence as a way to solve a dispute.  I can’t go along with subterfuge, either.  All parties involved are still in the world, and both have growing to do, as I did when I was a young husband, as my wife did- and all four of our parents, before us.  I will support each friend separately, and all of them collectively- if they work towards resolution.  Sticks and bricks hurt, when they are thrown, rather than used to build structures.

December 15, 2014

  • The Road to 65, Mile 17: The Office Party

    December 15, 2014-  Yesterday evening, I attended a Red Cross office Christmas Party, at the lovely home of one of the lead volunteers.  It was about seven miles out in the country, and the home was both modern and cozy.  I haven’t attended very many office gatherings, over the years, but I have embarrassed myself only once, back in the drinking-problem days, when I was first in Graduate School.  Since then, it’s been a nice learning curve of honour and respect.

    We had a nice assortment of foods, and I brought my bubbly cranberry (non-alcoholic).  The two dogs present kept us on our toes, vis-a-vis placement of food.  Several photos were taken, and I was not in any of them- being just happy to converse with several people, on a variety of topics.  The party game was “Janga”, of which I opted out, being of not the greatest fine-motor coordination.  I am applying for a position within our office, so hopefully  my not playing won’t prove to be this year’s equivalent of “You didn’t drink the boss’s brand of beer.”

    This brings me to the position.  I have looked over the specs for this job, and I have a vision for it, which I will lay out, first on the application, and later, with my wider audience.  One of my siblings once upbraided me for rarely delivering on my promises, in the work world.  He was largely correct, but I did, in the 1990’s, implement and administer a Comprehensive, Competency-based Guidance program.  Sure, it was part of a national trend, yet the teachers and I made it work, tailored to our school’s local conditions. I can do that again. Being much better at playing well with others than I used to be, is a big deal.

    The new position would revamp my plans for the next six years or so.  I would free-lance travel a lot less, but the stability would make my eventual journeys a whole lot more comfortable, when they happen.  I would definitely be out and about, a lot, though, in my territory of northwestern Arizona.  A good life involves a series of adjustments, and many of those are self-determined.

  • The Road to 65, Mile 16: Whose Yule?

    December 14, 2014- I skirted the fringes of a Facebook scuffle over A) which December holiday was better and B) who has any right to say Islam should not be practiced in American schools?  Hmmm.  The first one seems to be a tussle over pride of place.  To my way of thinking, there is plenty of room for all celebrations.  Yule, or Winter Solstice, is the oldest, going back to the pre-Christian Celts, at least.  Chanukah came next, in terms of chronology.  Christmas has the widest appeal, and greatest social cache, worldwide.  Modern and values-based, Kwanzaa delivers a viable message that Africans were never, historically, a primitive group of peoples.  Festivus?  Hey, what the heck, let the good times roll.

    This is the time of year when people like myself can sit back and honour a wide variety of religious practices.  I still send cards and small gifts to Christian family and friends,  and light the Menorah that Penny, Aram and I kept lit, in honour of her family.  I can’t chant the blessing, as she did, but the respect is there.  I also feel the spark of energy that comes with Solstice, as the days get infinitesimally longer.

    Fighting over holidays is as silly as parents fighting at Little League games.  I can only wish one and all a peaceful season.

December 14, 2014

  • The Road to 65, Mile 15: Validation and Respect

    December 13, 2014- I watch my favourite television shows on my laptop, a day after they are aired on TV.   This evening, I  watched a segment of “Blue Bloods”, in which one of the issues was respect between a husband and wife.  Validation of  a woman’s goals and aspirations was a matter of  personal growth for men of my father’s generation.  My mother did that for which she was trained, hairdressing and cosmetology, working out of her kitchen, as part of putting food on the table.  Dad respected that choice, and valued her efforts.

    It was a no-brainer for me, that Penny would work at what she loved best, and at what she excelled.  We worked a few times in the same schools, and her efforts often exceeded my own.  I learned to be sensitive, to avoid small acts or statements which could be misconstrued as disrespect for her work, or for her thoughts, goals, dreams.  There is a lot of subliminal sensitivity among Baby Boomers, stemming from our place as a transitional generation, one of whose tasks was to establish a true equality between genders.

    Society is not there yet.  Women, by and large, do get validated, in terms of their aspirations- up to a point.  There remains the Glass Ceiling.  There still exists the disparity in salaries, between genders.  Both genders, to a large extent, regard rape as a victim-initiated crime- even, among some on the far right, a contrived crime, either instigated by the woman, or made up by her-for various reasons.

    To be sure, there are those who use rape as a cudgel.  Such women, though, are a very small percentage of the total post-pubescent female populace.  Their acts should neither define public policy nor be the determinant of society’s attitude towards the vast majority of victims of sexual assault- female or male.

    As an educator, as an uncle and as a friend, I regard the aspirations, the efforts and the boundless intellectual and ergonomic gifts of women and men on an equal level.  As a fellow human, I regard a person’s body, space and well-being as inviolable.  Each of us has had to struggle with emotional and spiritual baggage.  I have disposed of much of my own, especially in the past dozen years.  I have imparted to our son, the imperative of being at eye level with any woman he wishes to bring into his life.

    Being in the world, living a complete life, means extending that right to all others.  Slowly, and steadily, the human race will realize that gender equality brooks no leeway.


December 13, 2014

  • The Road to 65, Mile 14: A Few Thoughts on Water

    December 12, 2014-  At long last, virtually the entire North American Pacific coast, from Anchorage to Ensenada, was getting a taste of intense moisture, yesterday and today.  The interior will start to get it tomorrow.  This makes me glad for some of the coastal places, dear to my heart, which have suffered, to some degree, from a lengthy drought:  San Diego, Malibu, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, and for those, like Bandon, Portland, Kalaloch and Seattle, that do get rain frequently, but can’t go too long without moisture- because of their ecosystems.

    We in the Colorado River watershed have come upon the ingenious idea of using our precious reservoir, Lake Mead, to- STORE WATER!  Those who have gone to Las Vegas over the years can attest to the fact that this western of the two great river-lakes derived from the Colorado has come into grave danger of turning into a dust basin.  Let’s now see who is serious about the conservation effort.

    There has been considerable talk, over the years, but more lately, about the efficacy of fluoridation of water and toothpaste.  It’s now common knowledge that fluoride is a waste product of coal production, in some parts of the world.  I have been scolded by chemical advocates for my own advocacy of filtering out fluoride, as well as lead, arsenic and selenium.  It’s true that we can’t be perfect in our filtering, but we can come close.  Perfection does not have to be the enemy of the good.

    All in all, though, water is as good a beverage as any, unless one is a barkeep working for tips- in which case, making a sour face and getting brusque with water drinkers  may be sorely tempting, but remains counter productive.

  • The Road to 65, Mile 13: Indianola/Sandy Hook

    December 11, 2014-   When I was eleven, the Scoutmaster of my Boy Scout troop, with my Dad’s blessing, took me to a firearms safety class, at the Essex County Chapter of the National Rifle Association.  There, I learned how to properly load, aim and fire a deer rifle, and how to clean it.  This lesson would be repeated, seven years later, in Army Basic Training- only with an M-16.

    I was brought up to respect weapons,of all kinds.  In turn, I imparted this respect to my son, when it came time for him to purchase a handgun.  He practiced and mastered firearms care and safety at a shooting range in the Phoenix area.  He has since acquired further such training, with the Navy.

    My late wife, also, was an expert rifleman.  Her father was a lifelong member of the NRA.  So, the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution is very dear to my family’s hearts.  None of us would want to see it breached, or compromised.

    There is something else none of us like seeing compromised:  The life of a child.  Whether through orphanhood, maiming or flat-out murder, the effect of unregulated weapon use by unstable people, by the criminally insane, by the vengeful affects the life of a child.  It is a stain on the Second Amendment.

    I do not believe that the Sandy Hook shootings were orchestrated by a shadowy branch of the Federal government, or by the FBI.  Saying such things is a dodge, as if the lives of 26 innocent people never mattered, much.  Therein lies the insanity, the illness behind self-serving callousness,  with which, by the way, the surviving families of those 26, including the children, were confronted,almost from the moment of their loved ones’ slayings.  Here’s why I don’t believe it:  Acts of terror involving firearms almost always are perpetrated by loners, by those who detest authority.  Adam Lanza fit that description to a tee.  So, too, did Daniel Nadler, who killed a classmate, in cold blood, in Indianola, Iowa, in June, 2010.  The same is true of so many others, similarly charged and so often convicted, of ending the lives of innocents who crossed their paths.

    We can do better, but first, we must want to.   We must want to have firearms available only to those of sound mind.  We must want to keep the weapons we may need for self-defense, out of the reach of the immature and the unstable.  We must want to have a social contract which guarantees that firearms are being afforded the respect and careful use due them, in each and every household in which they are present.

    It’s hard work, but this is America.  Time to roll up our sleeves.

December 12, 2014

  • The Road to 65, Mile 12: The Age of Unreason

    December 10, 2014- It seems so much these days is decided by emotion, accompanied by sloppy fact-checking, and the need more and more people seem to have, for external verification.  These processes don’t bring communities and nations together, and never will.

    I have lived a fairly solitary life, for the past 3 1/2 years.  My family members all have full cups and don’t need anyone else’s concerns to address, no matter how great or small those are.  It’s for that reason that I have learned to rely on my own resources, and it’s why I am leaning more and more towards taking the bull by the horns, with regard to a full-time disaster prevention and relief position, in mid-February next year.

    I have friends at all points on the political spectrum,  while maintaining my own sense of right and wrong.  My Dad was a social and fiscal conservative.  My mother is a social liberal, who nonetheless ran a tight ship, based on us taking responsibility.  So, I was compelled to listen to both points of view, growing up, and have the bounty of seeing many shades of opinion today.

    I will not, though, go along with anyone who advocates oppression or harm to an innocent person, or group.  There are those who derive their power and satisfaction, from dividing people and groups.  We see this in everything from the camera hogs and pundits who are first on the scene of an episode of unrest, to the Deep Pockets who fund entities which seek to keep information from the people-at-large.

    My parents liked and respected Martin Luther King, Jr, the Kennedy brothers, Cesar Chavez and even Malcolm X, after his return from Hajj.  My latter-day heroes are mostly international figures:   The late Nelson Mandela, Aung-san Suu Kyi,  Malala Yousafzai and the new President of Indonesia:  Joko Widodo.  Those who can see beyond the current atmosphere of “dodge and cast blame” are the figures who will lead us through the darksome night.

December 9, 2014

  • The Road to 6, Mile 11: Getting Organized

    December 9, 2014- This date used to be one of the last serious work days, before things got TOTALLY CHRISTMAS.  That was when I was young and naive.  As a Baha’i, I still get into the spirit of the season, though.  My family and Christian friends, and their joys, still matter greatly.  So, I still send greeting cards, some with gift cards inserted.  I enjoy the holiday sounds and feel the magic of the day itself, knowing that it has Wiccan roots, which themselves celebrate bounty and blessings.  It is as good a time as any to honour Christ, and all He has brought to the world.

    All the Messengers of God have brought the rudiments of organized worship to Their followers, and have left it to those followers to carry on the Mission of the Faith, through organizations which meet their needs.  That many have gone overboard, or astray, in the fullness of time, does not make the need for humans to be organized any less urgent.

    In my own life, the difficulties I’ve had in accomplishment and in delivery of my promises, have all arisen from lack of organization.  My recent entry into the world of wellness advocacy has made getting more organized, on a daily basis, and according to the type of day ahead of me (Working, Non-working but in-town, On the road), much more imperative.  So, that was today’s main focus, along with updating my generic resume.

    I also spent some time with a colleague, discussing a possible re-entry into the work force, in mid-February, after I return from visiting family and friends in the South.  This would radically alter my daily life, so it is not being considered capriciously.  Details will be shared at the proper time. Whatever transpires, I will remain in disciplined organization mode, from one day to the next.