Category Archives: people

Give Harmony a Chance

Does anyone else feel like they woke up one day not long ago and everyone in the USA seemed a bit tense? Maybe it’s because I’m retired and have more time on my hands to notice what’s going on around me.

My uniform for my previous day job of 40 plus hours per week included a set of blinders. It was almost impossible to catch the day-to-day drama of being a citizen.

Even my first year of retirement was focused on personal projects that had been ignored and postponed for years:  yard work beyond an occasional mow, house work beyond the occasional vacuum, sorting through stacks of items stowed in the garage or spare closet, writing the book I started years before.

And then it was 2015 and the Presidential election caught my attention. One of my first posts in May 2016 was about Trump running. Rereading that post recently I was amazed how both correct and wrong I was in my speculation. But that’s another issue.

I don’t believe the election or Donald J. Trump himself caused the tension in our citizenry. But it occurs to me they both exacerbated the soup of divisiveness that had been simmering for years. A soup, by the way, which is now a full-fledged and very large pot of Mulligan stew.

Although I dwell on this situation during my evenings digesting the day’s news, I don’t know precisely how we got here or what can be done to go back to “better times” or even if the “better times” are merely my personal fantasy.

I suspect that we need to listen to each other’s ideas without judging, perhaps by viewing the idea from the other person’s perspective. Okay, I know what you’re thinking: It’s impossible to truly walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. I agree, but the effort to do so would be a beginning.

Here are a few ideas:

  1. Before you lash out to criticize or rebut something really stupid said by someone who is clearly an idiot – Stop, take a breath, and ask the person politely, “Why do you say that?” or “What makes you think that?” Don’t be aggressive or accusatory or denigrating. Stay calm and ask.
  • Before you forward an email, text, Face Book post, or Tweet – Think about the consequences. Will this information do harm or good? Will receiving this information inflame or relieve the recipient? Do you want to be responsible for perpetuating hate or unease? Do you know things NEVER leave the internet?
  • Before you respond to a statement, question, or accusation – Slow down and consider what you are about to say. Did you understand the other person’s words? If not, ask the individual to repeat or explain. What can you say that would be positive?  What do you know about the subject? Should you do research or ask more questions? Above all, DO NOT try to FIX the person’s thinking.
  • Remember it’s not about YOU, so don’t take it personally. Even if it seems at first glance to be about you, it probably isn’t. Ask yourself why you’re angry or upset and make sure you approach the issue calmly.

Hey, it’s worth trying.

Grand Canyon Adventure – End of the Journey

Since December 19, 2016, when Anne brought up the idea of hiking at the Grand Canyon, there was a month or two of research, three monthly attempts to make a reservation at Phantom Ranch, and over 60 training hikes of various lengths and durations culminating in the final (and I must say awesome) success of the Grand Canyon hike itself.

IMG_0445The importance of training for this type of hike cannot be overstated. If one wants to hike the South Kaibab (7.5 miles) or Bright Angel (10 miles) trails, one must understand the seriousness and brutality of the “up-ness” and “down-ness” of this hike. If you plan to stay at Phantom Ranch your load will be lighter than if you plan to camp out. In either case practicing with your full load is important.

I suppose the amount of training is relative to age (i.e., the younger you are the less training you need). Okay, I’m sure that’s true, but one should nevertheless take my advice into consideration.

We drove the 2600-mile round trip between Missouri and the South Rim, taking three days going and two days to come home. Driving through Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona is worth the time if you have it. The wind turbine and solar panel farms are incredible.

20180429_173240_resizedThe volcanic lava fields seemingly springing forth from a desert mesa in New Mexico are mind-blowing. The rock formations across the Southwest United States are not only beautiful but humbling.

20180501_115025But there are cities, small and large, that are interesting too. We stopped for the night in both Amarillo, TX, and Albuquerque, NM. And it didn’t hurt that we had great weather. But oh that wind!!!

IMG_2281IMG_2250On our way to the canyon, we spent an afternoon in Old Town Albuquerque (established in 1706). The area is charming and the shopping opportunities abound. Each locally-owned store has its own story and character. Here’s a link to a bit of history: .

Our return trip started early the day after our hike out. We grabbed a quick breakfast along the interstate and headed to Amarillo—about half-way home. Anne and Shayna had the perfect place in mind for our celebration dinner. We’d driven past the “no-way-you-can-miss-seeing-this-place” location on our way to the canyon. Perhaps a little over-the-top, but it held a special place in their family history.IMG_0434

IMG_0438We drove from our hotel on the east side of Amarillo a little farther east to The Big Texan Steak Ranch. Nothing about this establishment is small—not the sign outside, the huge dining room, the desserts, nor the 72-ounce steak which is free if you can eat it ALL (including baked potato and salad). (Check it out: )

IMG_2395Certainly one cannot overlook the charm of the roving singers, two men who can perform, without hesitation and in harmony, ANY song that is requested.IMG_0441

Our steaks and baked potatoes were cooked to perfection and delicious. By the way the young man did not meet the 72-ounce steak challenge that night.

IMG_0452Having started our adventure with Margaritas, we toasted our successful trip with the Big Texan’s super-large Margaritas with super-large jalapeño garnish.

And on to the next challenge.

Grand Canyon Adventure – All Downhill

Our trip to one of the World’s Seven Natural Wonders definitely qualifies as an “adventure of a lifetime.” Although geologists debate the issue, the Colorado River is given much credit for “carving” the Grand Canyon over millions of years. That thought alone is staggering when one views the mile-deep canyon. The landscape, texture, and scope of this phenomenon is like nothing I’ve ever seen up-close-and-personal. The panorama is staggering and we visited only one section.

My friend Anne, her daughter Shayna, and myself approached the South Rim by car via Arizona 64 North off of Interstate 40 West just west of Flagstaff. The fifty-mile drive is interesting, but there’s no looming vista as one expects when approaching a mountain range, for example. 20180501_185202In fact, we didn’t see the canyon itself until we arrived at the Bright Angel Lodge on the west side of Grand Canyon Village. After checking in and settling into our rooms we explored the walkway running behind the lodge. And there it was . . .


Rising early the next morning to prepare for our hike, I opened the drapes and was surprised by the solid covering of snow on everything. Didn’t they take that out of the forecast?

20180502_063842_resizedApparently Mother Nature had other plans. We checked out of the lodge and slogged our luggage through the slush to Anne’s car, conveniently parked in front of the lobby.

The lady at the hiking help-desk recommended we take the Bright Angel Trail rather than the South Kaibab as we had planned. Although the 10-mile Bright Angel is 2.5 miles longer it is less steep and more protected from the weather.

IMG_2296And so we began our hike down in the snow fall. We were protected by jackets and additional ponchos which covered our packs as well as us.

The view of the canyon was completely obscured, but the snow was gorgeous and the winds were calm—an unusual phenomenon for the rim area.

IMG_2316By the time we reached the 1.5 mile rest house the snow had changed to rain. We were in and out of rain, and our ponchos, during the remainder of the hike. The only consistent aspect: our direction was always DOWN. Only for a brief distance at the bottom as we paralleled the Colorado River did we go up.

But I’m getting ahead of my story.

First let me say that everyone who hikes the canyon must do so at their own pace. I have this on good authority. Well, maybe I made it up, but I am nonetheless convinced.

20180502_100455_resizedSomewhere between the 1.5 mile and 3.0 mile rest houses, Shayna’s shoe sole came unglued. As we were trying to assess the damage, an up-going hiker provided enough duct tape to hold the soles in place.

It was shortly after the repair that I came up with my “own pace” theory and gradually fell behind. The two of them would wait for me down the trail and we would rest and repeat. 20180502_112724_resizedBy the time I caught up with them at the 3.0 mile rest house, the quick-fix on Shayna’s shoe was gone. Anne used the emergency phone and was given a code/pin to the emergency box. Among its treasures was a role of—you guessed it—white duct tape.

The boot crampons used earlier in the snow and ice were added to keep the shoe together and protect the duct tape from wearing away. Although you can see the weather in the distance, we were temporarily in a sunny patch. But don’t worry, more rain was in store. You can also see the step-like logs which vary in height and provide the greatest challenge in the down-ness.

So we resumed our little lag-behind-wait-catchup-rest-repeat regimen. Unfortunately, the weather and the “down-ness” was stressing my legs beyond expectation and I became slower and needed to rest more often.

Did I mention I have a bad hip? Actually I had one hip replaced in 2015 and have the other hip replacement scheduled for exactly four weeks after the Grand Canyon hike. I know. What was I thinking?

However, I will insert here that despite my pain and slowness and the occasional rain, I was in one of the most breath-taking places in the world. I was a little tired of going down, making the switch-backs, and avoiding the huge muddy puddles on the trail. But the multiple-colored and diverse rock formations and canyon walls were spell-binding.

Nevertheless, Anne was becoming concerned that we would be late for dinner. Ordinarily that is not a major issue, but at Phantom Ranch when the dinner bell chimes, the guests have only a few minutes to gather before the door is locked and the meal begins precisely at 5 pm.

I’m going to accelerate the story now. No need for me to go through the next 6 miles again and I certainly wouldn’t ask you to go with me.

Anne sent Shayna ahead, hoping she could make it by dinner time, check in, and explain our dilemma. 20180502_140235_resized.jpg

So down and down and down Anne and I went. Although still ahead of me, she was never out of sight, which was extremely reassuring. We made our turn at the river, then the brief upward push to the bridge and another mile or so to the ranch.

As usual I announced, “I really need to sit for a minute.” So Anne left me resting on a rock as she searched for Shayna.

It was 6 pm, almost 11 hours since we left the South Rim. The “normal” range estimated for the hike is 6-9 hours. But my goal had been to make the hike not set a speed record.

Besides, Phantom Ranch buildings were in sight and I was happy on my rock in one of the most awesome places on the planet. How much better could it get!?!

The next installment will be posted after my surgery.

Drive versus No-Drive?

Have you ever wondered why one person is more “driven” than the next? Why do some people have specific goals in life, figure out how to achieve them, and establish a plan/path to get there? What’s more, that individual will roll with the punches, take an alternate route as needed, and revise their target to skirt any obstruction or switch to a more attractive opportunity.

Others are guided by circumstances or events in an ad hoc fashion. A friend may mention she wants to go into the Navy, describing the benefits of military service. Our subject rolls her eyes and smiles, but her brain is secretly digesting and analyzing the information. Before you know it our gal is in the Air Force and her friend has moved on to another idea.

I relate to the above serendipitous scenario. In fact, my life-path has been directed by a sequence of unforeseen events or circumstances. These nudges were provided by friends, family, and complete strangers, usually at moments when I was wondering what to do next.

Both approaches are okay. And I don’t think a person necessarily makes a conscious decision to go one way or the other. It’s just what happens.

So here’s my theory: Young Soul as opposed to Old Soul.

Young Soul might be eager to experience a particular challenge not faced in a previous lifecycle. Old Soul, on the other hand, may have been more structured in previous lives and wants to “go with the flow” this time around.

Of course, it may be the exact opposite. Old Soul has things left to do and sets out to accomplish a particular goal in this time. Young Soul doesn’t know what’s available, so-to-speak, so just lets circumstances guide their life activities.

Anyway, that’s my current speculation.

Not Too Soon

Besieged by grief after the devastating and terrifying carnage at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the children-students have become the adults in the conversation. They say it isn’t too soon to talk about gun control. They say they are tired of inaction on the part of politicians and the government. They say children should not be afraid to go to school. They say it’s time to do something to prevent school shootings.

And perhaps those who have a responsibility to take action are listening. Perhaps the very poised, articulate, and rightfully angry students of Douglas High have themselves taken the first step to fix the problem.

The truth is the “problem” experienced in Parkland, Sandy Hook, Columbine and other schools is complicated. Everyone has an opinion—too many guns, too easy to get an assault rifle, too many troubled teens or adults, and on and on. Consequently, there is no simple “fix.”

But the students who raised their voices and gained the attention of the nation—maybe the world—have expressed the right idea. Now is the time to begin the conversations, to take the steps, to do whatever is necessary to prevent this type of tragedy—whether in a school or in a concert hall—from happening ever again.

As I listened to the students, teachers, and parents speaking to the President in the White House recently, I was extremely proud of this next generation. In the midst of much of turmoil and division in the world, they represent hope for the future. I was also impressed with other grassroots programs which sprung from the tragedies of Columbine and Sandy Hook and now bolster the movement roused by the most recent school massacre.

The powerful crusade energized by the Parkland students is less than two weeks old. Hopefully, this daunting campaign will strengthen and endure. There’s a lot of work to do, but the first giant step has been taken by some very brave teenagers.


News-Junkie Blues

Yes, I will admit I’m a news junkie – local, state, and national. I’ve always watched the evening news and read the daily newspaper. Before I retired, I often recorded morning news programs and special news events to watch after work. You might say I’m interested in what’s happening in my community and in my country, or you might say I have a problem. Either way, I’m probably not going to change.

Why am I sharing this character trait? The truth is the news I’m watching these days can be a real downer. There are people murdering strangers. There are revelations about people I have admired and respected doing really inappropriate things to other people. There are wars in several areas of the world in which our country participates one way or another. There is dysfunction and chaos in Washington, D.C., the heart of our democracy. The list goes on.

Should I give up watching all those reports? That’s not a realistic solution.

Sometimes I miss the “good old days” until I realize that’s not when we live. We live now. There’s no way to return to a better time (at least not yet). And the reality is—the past was not better it was simply different.

I can hear you say, “Please don’t tell me ‘life is what you make it.’” Sorry, but life is exactly that. Our experiences—disappointments and successes, challenges and pleasures—are flavored by our choices, our decisions, and—more importantly—our reactions to whatever comes our way.

All of what happens in our world affects us and much of what happens cannot be changed or fixed by us, but we can control how we respond to what happens, regardless of one’s situation or station in life.

I try to lean to the positive side, not right or left. I even share a big grin with that jerk who just cut in front of me in traffic. A couple days ago I actually helped a lady deal with her debit card in the grocery line (another story). Basically, I think about the other guy’s point-of-view or situation before reacting.

Do I always agree with the other person? Of course not. But if I try to understand his position, I might find a way to lend a helping hand or have a constructive conversation.

If neither is feasible, I just walk away or turn off the television before I add to the problem or allow myself to become upset.

Does this policy always work? Well, “always” is a stretch, but more often than not I feel better.

If I could just learn to live without the evening news.


Have you ever wondered what attracted you to your best friend or spouse? Do you try to analyze why you just can’t stand being in the same room with a particular co-worker? Isn’t it strange how you would do anything for one of your supervisors, but go out of your way to avoid doing something for another?

I’ll admit I have a degree in psychology so I’m probably overthinking this, but you have to admit relationships are quite mysterious. Experts claim hormones and pheromones are the culprits. They say humans communicate through odors. Certainly odors are important to my dog—she sniffs everything.

According to Wikipedia—the internet’s Encyclopedia Britannica—this pheromone thing works for many species (humans, bees, plants, etc.). In addition, there are actually different pheromones affecting behavior or physiology. Check it out at or

But, even so, what explains the degree of attraction or repulsion we experience for some individuals? And why are those attractions and repulsions often mutual? Can it be as simple as the scientific explanation of pheromones and hormones?

What about Kismet, fate, karma? And let’s not forget those really deep blue eyes. Somehow a scientific explanation makes life seem more like a lab experiment. In my opinion there’s more happening. Our relationships are too complex and varied to be reduced to chemical reactions.

Relationships change over time but can also remain the same “forever” even across many miles—beyond the “smell factor.” We have many both special and horrifying relationships throughout our lives—some we remember gladly, some we’d rather forget.

Age and social status does not necessarily matter. Take the two friends drawn to each other at random–89 year old Erling Kindem & 3 year old neighbor Emmet Rychner who have been in the news for a couple of years. Check it out at

Consider the unlimited variables and sequences of events that connect us to others. The intensity of a relationship can vary with age; a best friend in the first grade is as serious, but not necessarily as long-lasting as a best friend later in life. In addition, an individual can bounce between and span categories. And don’t forget relatives. Cousins, siblings, even in-laws can play in the mix as well.

Think about how convoluted it all is as you peruse this sample along the relationship continuum:

  1. Social acquaintance: casual, friendly, or familiar sharing only part of ourselves with each other—maybe a smile or a nod in the hallway or at the mall
  2. Co-workers: peers, superiors, inferiors, bosses, or employees working as competitors or teammates or a combination, perhaps sharing some personal information with a chosen few
  3. Friend: individual with whom you are comfortable, share respect and similar values, but with limited social interaction beyond what draws you together—job, club, activity, hobby
  4. Good friend: individual with whom you have a mutual like, trust, respect, and similar values and with whom you socialize often and participate in one or more activities of a common interest, perhaps sharing a great deal of personal information
  5. Best friend: limited to one or—if you’re lucky—a few individuals with whom you are mutually supportive and share your more-personal information, even secrets; you have each other’s backs
  6. Romantic partner: individual with whom you share a dating or spousal relationship who probably—but not necessarily—fits into the “best friend” category as well.

Father’s Day

Last month I discussed Mother’s Day and how important my mother was to me. Because my parents were divorced when I was still a toddler, my relationship with my father was necessarily different.

I’ve never celebrated Father’s Day with more than a card and/or a phone call. It’s not a special day for me.  I loved my daddy and I know he loved me.  I always felt he supported me, even if from a distance.  But I lived with my mother and she took care of my day-to-day and year-to-year needs.

Strangely enough, I always called him “Daddy.” I say strange because I called her “Mother” never “Mommy” or “Mom.”

Unlike with shared custody, I visited my father only occasionally. We spoke on the phone quite regularly, but he rarely attended my school or dancing events. I don’t remember wondering why or feeling particularly bad about it.

The truth is during the 1950s and 1960s, Fathers—at least mine and my friend’s—rarely participated in their children’s lives. In fact, unlike today, there weren’t that many school activities which required—let alone encouraged—parental participation.

When I would spend the day with Daddy (keep in mind I was 6-to-10 years old), he would amuse me with magic tricks. He could find nickels in the strangest places—behind my ear, on top of a lamp shade, behind a clock. And we always ended the visit with a game of dominoes, which he never let me win; I had to work for it. In my teen and adult years, we would play pinochle, assuming a couple more players were available.

Our phone conversations included his reciting poetry. He wrote one about my dog named Twinkle, called “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Dog”—you get the idea. He also wrote “punny” jokes and product jingles, none of which I remember, but they always made me laugh.

Another favorite phone game involved my giving him a long series of multi-digit numbers to add or multiply together. He could come back with an answer almost immediately. My mother said he was good with math—no kidding—and could have been a CPA.

As I grew older and my male friends or co-workers talked about their daughters, I began to realize how much I had missed. Sometimes I wondered what having a full-time dad would have felt like.  What would have happened if my parents had stayed together? But such speculation only makes my head spin—too many variables.

The fact is, I am who and where I am now because of everything that has happened in my life—every person, every event, every circumstance. And frankly, where I am now is a perfect place.