Nine Tasks

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January 19, 2019-

Many people make resolutions, the first thing, when the calendar rolls over.  I don’t indulge in that particular practice, knowing that making firm commitments to new practices takes time.

There are nine task areas, labours of love, that have defined my life, since the passing of  Penny, nearly eight years ago.  I will focus today on what these mean, relative to 2019.

1.  Family- With Aram and Yoonhee based in Busan, for at  least the rest of this year, my focuses are: To be in Korea for their sacred wedding ceremony, in March; to tend to such of their needs as can only be addressed on this side of the Pacific; to meet them in the U.S., should they visit here in the summer.

2.  Work- I remain committed to working, during the regular academic year, through at least December, 2020 and no later than May. 2021, depending on the needs of the school, preferably in the High School Autism Program.  Thus, work is a major daily focus through the fourth week of May and from August-December.

3. Faith- No day has gone by, since February 23, 1981, that I have not begun my morning in devotions and a fairly long recitation of prayer.  Service to Baha’u’llah remains  a prime expression of my inner joy and love for humanity.  This year marks the Bicentenary of the Birth of al-Bab (The Gate), Who we revere as both Baha’u’llah’s Herald and His Twin Messenger of God, as al-Bab’s spiritual Dispensation took place from 1844-1853, immediately before the beginning of Baha’u’llah’s.   Their birthdays also fall on two consecutive days, on the lunar calendar.  This year, these are October 29-30, with al-Bab’s  anniversary occurring first. (Historically, Baha’u’llah was born in 1817 and al-Bab, in 1819).  There are also regular Spiritual Feasts and other Holy Days, throughout the year and I  am participating in regular study groups and other activities.

4.  Community Life-  I take part in volunteering on community projects, with the American Red Cross and Slow Food Prescott.  The focuses are on disaster response, home safety, school gardens and,  new this year, food recovery.  These activities largely define my giving back to Prescott and Yavapai County, for having been a large part of my solace, in the Fall of 2011.  The American Legion’s Post 6 celebrates its 100th anniversary, in May, and I will have a part to play in that celebration.

5. Writing- Blogging and journaling have also been critical to my inner healing, even in the midst of my caretaking, in 2008-11.   They remain an integral part of who I am, and so Word Press, with its being extended to Facebook and Linked In, remains my primary means of self-expression, through this year and beyond.  I also maintain a pen and ink private journal.

6, Hiking-  This has been a huge lifelong pastime, pretty much since I was old enough to walk.  Since I’ve been old enough to take off on my own, without getting into trouble, many trails and paths, from my native Massachusetts to the desert Southwest, Colorado, southeast Alaska, Korea and northwestern Europe have seen my bootprints.  This year, my focuses will be on further segments of the Maricopa Trail, at least two visits to the Grand Canyon, more beach walks in southern California, Fall hikes in Utah and the Navajo Nation, and several walks with Aram and Yoonhee, whilst in Korea.

7. Travel-  This has also long been one of my passions, often dovetailing with hiking.  The Korea trip will take me to Gwangju and Jeju, as well as Busan.  Prior to that, will be a Presidents’ Day weekend visit to southern California, hopefully connecting with friends in Orange County and the San Diego area-with La Jolla, Dana Point, San Clemente and possibly Crystal Cove being on the itinerary.

June and July largely hinge on my little family’s schedule.  Carson City, in late May, is a given, with a new extended family member having been born, this past week.  A 1-2 week visit to the Northwest, Vancouver Island/Sunshine Coast and southeast Alaska is likely-as is the now customary jaunt through the Midwest to New England and back through the mid-South.

October (Fall Break) will find me in Monument Valley and southeast Utah- returning to Capitol Reef and Natural Bridges, as well as the Goosenecks of the San Juan River.  Christmas, God-willing, will see a return to Massachusetts.

8. Diet and Exercise- Planet Fitness and our daily Adaptive Physical Education regimen have largely provided my continuity as a healthy physical specimen.  Stretches at home have also proven critical, as I recovered from a posterior knee strain, over the past ten weeks.  Things are 99% back to normal and I want to keep it that way- up to, and maintaining, 100%.  I am cutting back on coffee consumption, not out of any pressure, but because my body tells me that’s what it wants.  Less red meat is also finding its way onto my plate-and what there is, is certified grass-fed and organic.  A greater percentage of my diet being of vegetables, fruits and whole grains is on tap for this year, as well.  Yes, I will drink more water-that’s not an empty statement. Therapeutic Grade Essential Oils, including Lifelong Vitality Supplements, are a continual source of sustenance.

9. Study-  My mind is always looking to keep current with advances in health, trends in positive thought and expanding my awareness of subjects in which I have scant knowledge- as well as continual study of Baha’i texts and new correspondence. This will continue, as 2019 progresses.

This is a longer post than usual, but there you have my year’s plan.

 

 

 

Surprises, Challenging and Delightful

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January 13, 2019, Happy Jack, AZ-

I woke this morning, to find six inches of freshly-fallen snow covering the area outside my room at Delta Motel, Winslow.  It is a high desert community, and the residents were as surprised as I was, that the serenity brought by snow had descended upon their environs.  I’ve liked the Delta, for several years, because of its unpretentious yet immaculate rooms, a few of which had rockabilly themes, under a former owner.   The rooms now have a distinctly Southwestern flavour to them.

The snow did leave me to ponder the rest of my day.  Having said that I wanted to visit friends on the Hopi Nation, ninety minutes northeast of Winslow, I had to consider the weather and road conditions, plus the fact that I have to be in Phoenix, for an appointment, tomorrow morning.

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I opted to head for home, primarily because between Winslow and Prescott there lies high country, regardless of route.  There was poor reception for both phone and wifi, so discerning road conditions, later in the day, was problematic.   After breakfast, and wishing the caring and efficient motel staff a fine day, I filled my car’s tank at a station across the street.  Winslow is famous for  the late Glenn Frey’s reminiscence of a girl “slowing down to take a look” at him, whilst he was standing on a corner there.  It was rather ironic, that a sweet-faced young lady sat in her car and smilingly watched as I filled up the tank.  We never spoke, but her smile was a comfort.

I headed south, as she headed north, and found the road, to this little village on AZ Route 87, very well-plowed and free of ice.  This high country town has a small cafe- Tall Pines Cafe, named for the largest contiguous Ponderosa pine forest in North America.  Fresh chicken noodle soup and delectable quesadillas were my filling lunch.  The snow was as fresh here as it was in Winslow, and would cover the ground as far as 2/3 of the way down the rim to Camp Verde.

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P.S.-The rest of the drive was uneventful, with bare ground from Camp Verde until I was just about back in Prescott.  I take comfort in that farmers will have a leg up, come spring, if the precipitation continues at the level it has fallen, thus far this winter.  I will make time to go up to Hopi, later in the Spring, and certainly at some points during Summer.

Nonetheless, surprises from the Universe are part of what keeps me going strong.

 

Lightness Is

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January 12, 2019, Flagstaff-

I set out for this mountain community, which was my home in 1980-81, with a view towards determining the level of untended littering in one National Monument:  Sunset Crater, during the ever-longer government shutdown. As we’ll see, the amount was rather light.

The day started with my feeling weighted down, by what, I still have no idea.  My mood was lifted, though, by meeting a delightful little family from Dharma Farm, a place of which I’ve written in the past, whilst making my usual rounds  at Prescott Farmers Market.  I will re-visit Dharma more often, during the remainder of winter and into spring.  Their commitment to permaculture is something of which I want to learn more, prior to any post-retirement move I might make.  Permaculture will be described further, in subsequent posts, as well.

Back to Flagstaff, and Sunset Crater.  I found few other people visiting the park.  Three tourists did drive past the semi-porous barricades and further into the park.  As it happens, a Federal park ranger is on site and drove into the area, quickly sending the visitors back the way they came.  Only a Dineh man, with grandfathered visiting rights to any area of Sunset Crater and nearby Wupatki (some park lands were purchased, by eminent domain, from a handful of Dineh (Navajo) families), in the 1930’s), was allowed to drive his truck behind the barricades.

I  went on foot, for about a mile, into the park and found little trash along the road-and none on the trail I took.  There were some lovely views, though.

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After it was apparent that my mission did not warrant further exploration of the park, especially with the ranger working without pay, I headed back into town, and parked in a formerly free lot.  Flagstaff has taken a page from other tourist-dependent communities, and charges $1 per hour to park along downtown streets or in its off-street lots.  I find this reasonable, though some visitors grumbled that there are not “freshly-paved” streets that would “warrant” such a charge.  Go figure.

I found the usually congenial folks at Pizzicleta, an artisan thin-crust eatery, to be a bit grumpy and unusually reserved.  One of the servers mentioned how tired they were, though the place had barely been open for twenty minutes.  Maybe it is the preparation that is enervating.  The food was still great, though, which is what matters most.

Now, it’s time to head to Winslow, an hour to the east, and find a spot at my favourite motel there.  Tomorrow, I hope to head up to the Hopi Nation, to visit long-time friends.  The Bean Dance is coming.

 

The Old Year’s New Friends

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December 30, 2018, Prescott-

This fading year brought new people and places into my life, and filtered this life, quite vigourously.

My new friends, both online and in real time, have greatly enriched my life- being both sweet/warm and hot/ferocious.  One needs both in a balanced life.  I am blessed with a new daughter-in-law;  two wonderful branches of a blended family being brought into ours-courtesy of another family  wedding this past summer; a very bright and much-loved grandniece born in February; a smattering of vibrant, creative friends, from this year’s Convergence at Arcosanti; all manner of beloved souls from that site called “Archaeology for the Soul” and so many with whom I just happen to bond, in my wanderings both physical and ethereal.

I have filtered some- though I continue to feel great love for a place called Dharma Farm, prudence has led me to keep physical distance from there, for the time being.  A brief encounter with a distraught soul, this past Autumn, was also brought to an end, at her insistence, and no doubt with the blessing of the Universe.  I am more in tune with the needs of a good friend, here in Prescott.  Communication is everything!  I also dispensed with Twitter, though that means saying farewell to some friends who are only reachable on that medium.

This year brought some new cafes and restaurants into my life, here in town: Ms. Natural’s, Rustic Pie, Firehouse Coffee, Outlaw Donuts , Rosati’s Pizza and Danny B’s (actually in Chino Valley). I have lost none of my older faves here, save Black Dog Coffee,which bid us farewell in November.

New to me, on the road, this year, are Old Town Albuquerque; Moriarty (NM); Salina (UT); Sedalia (MO); Nauvoo and Carthage (IL); Ridgeview Grill ( Wilmette); Lafayette/West Lafayette/Prophetstown State Park’Tippecanoe and Mishawaka (IN); Ridgetown and London (ON); Toronto; Auberge Bishop, Chicha Donburi and La Pantere Verte (Montreal); Plattsburgh/Ausable Chasm (NY); Valley Forge; Alexander Inn and Independence Hall (Philadelphia);  Hostels International, Fort McHenry and Iron Rooster (Baltimore); the Western Shore of Chesapeake Bay; Jamestown/Yorktown/ Virginia Beach/Newport News; Louis Gregory Baha’i Institute/Hemingway (SC); Hot Plate (Timmonsville,SC); New Moon Cafe (Aiken); Calhoun Falls State Park /Edgefield (SC); Falls Park on the Reedy/Smoke On The Water (Greenville, SC); Walterboro (SC); Salisbury and Asheville (NC); Crossville (TN); Hostel Memphis/Young Avenue Deli/The National Museum of Civil Rights/Arcade Restaurant/Beale Street (Memphis); Old Town Alexandria. Each of these just added richness to this much blessed life and I would gladly visit any of them again.

NEXT:  Hails and Farewells

Tear Memories, Fire Sales and Recovery

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December 13-14, 2018, Prescott-

I’ve been back at work, these past two days, getting easily into the routine again.  As my crewmates read my posts here and on Facebook, there was a brief welcome back, with little conversation about the journey. We focus on the matters at hand, which are certainly enough on any given day.

It must have been quite a contrast in those schools which have endured the twin demons of school shootings and their accompanying choruses of denials/attacks on survivors and victims’ families.  The fourteenth of December, a full week after the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, has its own, equally horrific commemoration- the massacre at Sandy Hook.  There will never be a time when the survivors of this insanity do not shed tears.  There will hopefully be a time, and soon, when those of us who truly love children can forgive those who threatened the families of the shooting victims.  That time, at least for me, has not arrived, and I’m still vigilant.

Fridays are also  days when investors take to selling off their  stocks, perhaps more than on any other day of the week.  I know the sales have to originate on Wednesdays, with the cashout being completed at week’s end, but it seems to me that this is an ersatz payday.    The stock market is no place for a fire sale.

I have now fully recovered from a couple of setbacks, earlier in the year.  Finances are sound, and will have to sustain me for the rest of my life, so I will continue to maintain a measure of frugality.  I again have a passport, so prudent overseas travel can happen, to Korea, next Spring, and certain other places, two years hence.    Travel and frugality are not mutually exclusive.

 

Back On Track

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December 12,2018, Phoenix-

I got back in time to see the sun cast its brilliant hues, but being in the baggage claim area, with my camera in one of the bags- there are only the images left in my head.

The flight back was quotidian, with a curious, playful infant breaking the monotony, at the outset of our departure from Reagan National to Dallas.  That’s fine; I’ll take a captivating child, followed by crickets, any day of the week.

Dallas offered a hearty Italian sub, as my combined lunch and dinner.  I haven’t had a real Italian cold cut submarine, in about 30 years.  I was surprised that, with the line at neighbouring Chik-Fil_A spilling into the concourse, there were only three of us at Campisi’s, which holds its own-to this child of a largely Italian neighbourhood in the Northeast.

Dallas-Phoenix was also a full plane, yet I scored a second window seat in a row.  The middle seat went to the male half of a young couple, who were oblivious to anyone but one another, save for handing me my complementary coffee.  I got further into Ken Follett’s “Winter of the World”, on this return flight, so it was win-win.

The drive back looks to be uneventful, now that the rush hour traffic has abated on AZ 51, north of Bell Road.  I will take my usual Cave Creek Rd-Carefree Highway-7th Street-New River Road route to I-17, since AZ 101 is almost always in Crush Hour mode until nearly 7:30, on weeknights. Phoenix residents will know of which I speak.

 

Old Town, but Not Cold Town

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December 10, 2018, Alexandria, VA-

In the years in which I was stationed at Fort Myer, VA and  in the several visits I’ve made to the Washington area, since then, I had not been in Old Town Alexandria.  The place was just enough off the beaten path that we always made to the National Mall, that I just never got over here.

The Metro has changed things and Alexandria took its rightful place on my itinerary, all the more so because our family dinner, the night before my mother-in-law’s interment, was held at The Warehouse, a fine dining establishment, in lower Old Town.

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This would be one of the best meals I’ve had, in a long time, and that’s saying  a lot, in a year of fabulous repasts. Yet, let;s get back to the start of this visit.

I took a Blue Line train to Alexandria’s Union Station, just after noon.

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Being a bit hungry, and with dinner nearly five hours away, I stopped in at this simple, but charming, little cafe, across from the train station.  As good as the coffee was, I relished the gyro sandwich, as well.

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Old Town, especially on King Street, has a variety of shops with interesting names:  Hard Times Cafe, Stage Door Deli, and this- a unique place, which was closed-it being Monday.

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Here is an eastward view of King Street. The air was cold, but the vibe in Old Town is uniformly warm.

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Even a broken bench was inviting.

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I spent about ninety minutes enjoying the scenes along the Potomac Riverfront, one of the key ingredients in the Alexandria Story.  This town was one of the first great shipbuilding and sail rigging manufacturing cities in the U.S., and continued in that role, right up through World War I.

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In Waterfront Park, the lone statue is that of a shipwright.

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Oystering is Alexandria’s other claim to fame, and Potomac River oysters are proudly served, both on and off the half-shell.  These pilings are left from an old oystering wharf.

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I could not resist zooming in on the U. S. Capitol, nearly six miles away to the north.

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Animals make do with the weather they’re given.  Here, a duck is grooming its mate, in the bracing Potomac waters.

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Jones Point, named for an indentured servant of the Eighteenth Century, is Alexandria’s largest wilderness park, and the southernmost point of Old Town.  It is the site of numerous archaeological digs, a couple of left-over border markers. From 1801-1847, the City of Alexandria was part of the District of Columbia.  A retrocession was passed by Congress in 1846 and took effect the following year, returning Alexandria to the Commonwealth of Virginia.  During the Civil War, however, the city was occupied by Union forces, thus temporarily reversing the retrocession.

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This house was occupied by the keeper of a lighthouse, at Jones Point, in the nineteenth century.

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On the walk back into Old Town, I noted the area’s awakening Christmas spirit.

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The last forty-five minutes before dinner were mostly spent in Torpedo Factory, which is actually Alexandria’s fascinating three-story arts haven.  More than fifty individual galleries are housed here, as are studios to encourage children’s art.

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The bear reminded me to stop by the small, but heartfelt, Old Town Books, and look for a children’s book-for my ten- month-old grandniece, who was at the dinner. I found a flip book on horses, which she found most interesting, both to sight and to touch, a good early sign!

The superb dinner ended a day, the likes of which “Bunny” always approved.

 

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Notes from The Peaceful Sky

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December 9, 2018, Arlington, VA-

So often, a plane flight is viewed as an unpleasant nuisance-especially with the small seats, misplaced luggage and human drama that are so highly touted in the travel media.

My flight from Phoenix to Atlanta was taken in a middle seat, but it was in between two quiet, pleasant gentlemen, who were busy with their own affairs.  In front of us was a woman whose husband was diagonally behind me.  I was glad to be the relay person, a couple of times during the flight, as she handed him what he needed.  Next to her was another couple, mid-40’s, attractive and probably fairly recently connected-they had the air of  teenagers about them, in a charming way.  I am not a stickler about PDA, within reason; it’s what people do when they are attracted to one another.

Hartsfield- Note to myself:  Don’t go for the pizza, next time.  It’s been a long time since the staple food had a bland taste. I’ve been spoiled, I guess, by the pizza of the East Coast, Chicago and across Arizona.

I kind of like getting smiling eyes and mouths from attractive ladies, even when the chance of anything further is nil.

Whilst waiting to show my boarding pass to the agent, I watched a young girl, about 11-12, tell her mother that they should go right to the agent, with their passes, as their section had already boarded. Mother insisted they go to the back of the line.  A kind gentleman, whose turn was next, intervened and convinced the mother that it was okay to go on to the check stand.  Score one for a child’s dignity.

The flight to Reagan National was again a sardine can, with me between a quiet young man and lady, who also kept to themselves. Five rows in front of us, a couple had given their toddler her own seat, but graciously took her to lapland, when the last unseated passenger appeared.  A flight attendant delighted us all, post beverages, with her heartfelt and well-sung rendition of “The Christmas Song”.  The older girl I mentioned above, happened to be seated diagonally across from us.  The look of joy on her face, at this performance, was priceless.

We got in to Reagan National ten minutes early and my transit,from baggage claim to hotel, was bing, bang, boom.  Reagan’s taxi stand is supremely well-oiled; the captain matching travelers, efficiently, with Virginia, DC and Maryland cabbies.

I found Comfort Inn as expected- a teensy bit worn, but clean and warm, a bargain for the next three days.

The Unbreakable Thread

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December 3, 2018, Prescott-

This evening, I made arrangements to attend next week’s services for my mother-in-law.  It will be my second visit to that gravesite, in Arlington National Cemetery, and all the more important, because I will be representing my son, as well as myself.  I will be honouring the people who have gave me the love of my life and who have given me the seeds of financial security- seeds that I have to plant and start to make grow, a few weeks hence.

Real family is an unbreakable thread, even when someone doesn’t understand, and tries to snip it, out of fear, anger, frustration or whatever negative emotion is in the recesses of their heart.  I have been very fortunate, in that respect. Even those in my extended family, and circle of friends, who roll their eyes at some of the things that come out of my mouth or find their way onto the pages of my sites, have, with  few exceptions, stayed with me. I will, as I have said frequently, stay by them as well.

The Cusp

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November 27, 2018, Prescott-

As I look back on being 67, living my 68th year, there have been some delirious high points- The wedding gathering of my youngest niece and nephew-in-law, the marriage of my son and daughter-in-law, the deep, loving welcomes I received at some friends’ home in Mishawaka, IN; at Auberge Bishop, in Montreal; at the above-mentioned gathering, in Philadelphia; in my in-laws’ home, in Florida; at a friend’s house in Salisbury, NC;  at a family gathering of some friends, in Crossville, TN; at Convergence at Arcosanti.

These loving environments almost overwhelmed me, but they shouldn’t have.  I have been very well-treated, for many years now, by the vast majority of those closest to me.  I am not sure why the shadows, the relatively few dark episodes of the year now coming to a close, seem to loom so large.  In objective terms, they pale beside all the times I have been greeted by my dear friends, at regular events around our area.

My steadfast friends range from those I see daily, at work, to those I see 2-3 times a week, at faith events, to those who, for whatever reason, I rarely see or with whom I seldom speak.  Then, too, there are the thousand-plus fields of people who regularly read my posts, and who have showered so much love on me, some for nearly a decade.  There are those I have met, who have become friends for the long term and others who are nice enough, but whose inner pain has taken them out of my life, after just a few encounters.  I last saw one of those people, not two days ago.

As with any year, there were farewells:  My mother-in-law and her older sister; one of Penny’s maternal cousins; a dedicated staff member at a Baha’i Institute, northeast of here; a long-time friend in New Zealand and several friends and elders from my childhood, most prominently an upstreet neighbour, who was virtually one of my surrogate fathers.

There were also hellos, some fleeting- like the woman who got me to put Penny’s and my wedding bands on my right ring finger and another woman who got me to attend a Game Night at a local coffee house. Neither were very long in my life. There are also the hoop dancers of Phoenix and the crews at Ms. Natural’s, Cuppers and Rustic Pie, here in town. These friendships are more likely to last.

The year brought me to California, in late winter, and from Nevada -to Quebec -to Florida and back to Arizona.  I camped in both rain and clear sky, spent a night in a private condominium,   stayed in four hostels, a business hotel, seven motels, three comfortable homes and slept one night in my car.

It has been a year of risks and rewards, more so than some years. It has prepared me for more.