My Gratitudes

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November 28, 2019-

A year ago, my shoulder was getting better and my left knee, injured by what seemed to be a psychic attack, as I walked down a short, routine set of stairs, was also well on the mend. The “woo-woo” aside, my health has been fabulous this year.  I am grateful to do Terra essential oils, hemp-based CBD cream, a team of physical therapists, my dental team in Phoenix, Planet Fitness and my chiropractor for helping me maintain that fabulous.

My family has been extraordinarily gracious and generous this year, as always.  Being with Aram, Yunhee and the Shin family, on the occasion of their Baha’i wedding, and the travels around southern South Korea that followed, remains the greatest of blessings.

My Baha’i community and other dear friends, around Prescott, continue to keep me grounded.  Those whose aim was to bring me down also had a role to play. Rearranging my priorities this year, has only made my life richer and more satisfying.

Prescott, and Arizona as a whole, continue to be inspiring, good hosts.  I never tire of the view of Thumb Butte, from my front window or of any of the exquisite scenes that unfold, no matter which direction I go.

My many friends and family, across the United States, and beyond, are ever present and encouraging, even if we rarely, or never, see one another in person.  I am grateful to have spent time with some, from California to Massachusetts and in-between, over the past twelve months.

Being ever expansive in my view of the world, visiting new places and making new friends is always a plus.  I found new perspectives on Albuquerque, Memphis, Charleston, Raleigh, the Eastern Shore and Delaware, West Point, Pittsburgh, Chicago/Wilmette, Kansas City and Los Angeles, over the past twelve months. Youth hostels, Airbnb and the comfort of friends’ and family homes made all the difference.

Time in nature is always huge, in my life.  The Centenary of Grand Canyon National Park saw me visit both North and South Rims.  The Navajo Nation’s Coal Mine Canyon, Canyon de Chelly, Window Rock  and Monument Valley ever warm my heart.  Being in New Mexico’s El Malpais was a comfort, after a case of food poisoning upended my Father’s Day.  There were meanders along the banks of the Mississippi and above the Goosenecks of the San Juan River; focused exploration of  Utah’s Natural Bridges and Hovenweep National Monuments, Lake Powell’s Wahweap area and the urban solace of Los Angeles’ Venice Canals re-affirmed who I am,at my core.

The greatest gratitudes are reserved for what is ongoing:  My mother’s continued presence in our lives, my little family returning to the United States, having three of the finest people as my siblings, my Faith in God being reaffirmed, each day, and my physical, financial and mental health remaining optimal.

Thank you, 2019, for having been, and remaining, a space of strength and comfort.

Back to Harmony

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September 8, 2019-

Yesterday, I let the sour mood pass through. I think it was a reaction to the falling barometer.  We got about 1.3 inches of rain, in this neighbourhood and in points east.  A trip to the laundromat, on the northwest side of town, revealed continued “dry as a bone” conditions. Whilst at Farmers’ Market, I learned, from a vendor, who is a mutual acquaintance, that an erstwhile tormentor had found some peace in her life.  That is comforting, as unhurt people are less likely to hurt people. As the day wore on, and the rain had passed, I felt more in tune.  Spiritual Feast, in the evening, was vibrant and well-attended, another uplift.

Today has seen a nice breakfast at Post 6 come and go.  Now the long and celebratory Farm-to-Table Dinner will occupy my afternoon and evening.  This is one of four large social events of the Autumn-three of them this month and the last, on November 2, which will keep me connected to the community and offer a form of activity, in addition to Planet Fitness and whatever hiking I do, here and elsewhere in the Southwest.  Service projects, other than the above, will also be performed, through the Red Cross.  Home safety, simply put, is our major focus, in areas at risk for wildfire.

The message comes to me that disharmony is, largely, actually a product of not being in sync with the community.  Letting other people’s pain affect my own self-concept is a disservice, to them and to myself.  So, back to a state of balance I go.

Today will make many people happy.

Dog Day

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August 19, 2019-

The day started with two good turns- A young singer with a powerful voice invited me, through her father/webmaster, to like her Facebook page;  The National Weather Service now says we may get rain, over Labor Day weekend.

I “liked ” the page, as anything I can do, to encourage a fellow autistic to build on personal strengths, is going to happen.  I’ll take rain, whenever it comes.  Last year, it came during a huge Country Music festival-in early autumn.  The world is turning on its axis, it seems, so in addition to whatever atmospheric changes we are inculcating, Mother Nature is making some changes of her own.

I read a study that claims people who nap more in the afternoon, and wake up at night, are at risk of Alzheimer’s, down the road.  That would mean a lot of us who nod off, in the heat of the day, are bound to find themselves in a different state of mind, ten years hence.  To me, though, the crux is often hydration.  I nod off less, when my water intake is up.  Since the brain is largely water, that could have some bearing on dementia, as well.  Synapses fire better, when there is a proper level of saturation.

It was hot enough today, that I felt it prudent to give my laptop a three-hour break.  Reading and a Planet Fitness visit took the place of  correspondence and pontification.  Not to worry, the latter is about finished, for now.

Remember, the Dog Days rarely last beyond Labor Day, which is two weeks off.  Stay saturated, my friends.

Day of Rage and Remembrance

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June 19, 2019, Joplin MO-

The title refers to August 10, 1861, and I will elaborate, momentarily.  My Juneteenth began in Amarillo, with three surly drivers edging towards road rage, within a span of an hour.  The first one zipped around the corner and found me in his way, so the horn blew and the fist was pumpin’.  I got off the road and waited a bit.  Then there was the woman who was off-kilter because I went straight when there was no “left turn only” indicator.  Still no harm, no foul.  Finally, after my Planet Fitness workout, across town, I was screamed at, for driving across a parking lot and not stopping at each point where the road intersects with said lot.  This is, apparently, an Amarillo thing. (In Arizona, every parking lot intersection has a STOP sign. We must be spoiled.)

With all that, I left the city behind, and waltzed on over to Shamrock (See Ernest Tubb’s “Waltz Across Texas”).  There is a place there, called Big Vern’s Steak House.  Aram and I had lunch there, in 2011.  Vern no longer opens for lunch, so after looking around and asking the kind cross street neighbour as to whether Vern was okay (He is; he just opens for dinner only, is all.), I checked out a place called Rusty’s.  The perky owner told me she wouldn’t be open for another week or so, but if I went north a piece, I’d find a nice little place called Mesquite Canyon Steak House.  I did, and it filled the lunch bill nicely.

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Next to Rusty’s is  Spinning Jenny’s House of Music.  If I’d been in a better mood, I’d have popped on in there.  Rusty and Jenny are both pretty and vivacious ladies, with good product, so it’s likely I’ll stop in Shamrock, next time I’m in the area.

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I recall June 19 as Juneteenth, the day that Texas slaves received word of the Emancipation Proclamation:  June 19, 1865, when the Union forces landed in Galveston and spread the news.  This was 2 1/2 years after President Lincoln issued the Proclamation.  Today, many people are still not free of their own limiting mental chains.

“Waltz Across Texas” became “Zumba Across Oklahoma”, shortly thereafter.  I have a breakfast meet-up with one of my cousins, who lives near Joplin, early tomorrow morning.  So, there were no Sooners on my schedule, this leg of the trip.  I took the I-40 to 44 and onward straight-away, finding that the long-standing detour through the east side of Tulsa has been eliminated.  It’s all freeway, from Erick to Miami, so I found an hour had been shaved off the drive.  There was a minor rush hour jam, near downtown OKC, but that was all.

Once in Joplin, I found Motel 6 was reasonable, and that this franchise owner has a high-tech system, reminiscent of the European hotels I used, in 2014.  Keyless entry and paperless registration are here in the Heartland.

NEXT:  The Battle of Wilson’s Creek

A Step at a Time

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March 31, 2019-

I made it to Planet Fitness, despite a sense of fatigue after a trip to Phoenix and back, having attended a worthwhile, but somewhat tiring, meeting.  I was glad to have not had to drive, with a competent friend at the wheel instead.

Tonight’s workout came after a twenty-minute catnap.  I feel better, having done the 30-minute express, followed by ten minutes on the hydrobed.  Bittersweet March has thus, in the end, affirmed that there is still quite a bit left in this sexagenarian frame.  I get appreciative glances from ladies, the younger among them knowing, as well as I do, that that is as far as it goes.  It feels nice, regardless.

It is now full-on Spring.  Tomorrow, we will see what practical jokes remain to be played.  Later in the month come Chalk-It-Up, Earth Day, Easter and the Twelve Days of Ridvan, commemorating Baha’u’llah’s Declaration of His Mission.  I will get my annual physical at the VA, sometime during the month, and will visit the Grand Canyon, on Good Friday.

April, as a wise colleague once remarked, cannot be the cruelest month.  Sorry, T.S. Eliot.

The Black Hand

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March 30, 2019-

In the Planet Fitness where I work out, there is a large seat, shaped like a Black Hand, in each of the stations where a hydromassage bed is located.  It strikes me that this is a symbol of challenge, that there are always difficulties to be overcome, whether self-imposed or brought on by others.

I have had to do a lot of re-assessment, after a rough past few days.  What I have determined is that: 1.  I am going to make fitness a higher priority than it’s been, having shown that I can make time for a workout, even on the busiest of days.

2.  I am going to cut way back, if not eliminate, my appetite for pastries and other high sugar-based food items.  Neither having my cake nor eating it, at least for the last two months of work.

3.  Doubling down on avoiding violence, no matter how violently I might be attacked, either by one of my charges or anyone who is deranged.  My reaction, from now on, will  be to distance myself, until assistance is at hand, at least in the work setting.

4.  Being more mindful and present.  Neither Alzheimer’s nor Parkinson’s has knocked on my door, but problems have presented themselves, through a combination of fatigue and autism.  I have done better, today, and need to continue getting enough rest, so that there is no repeat of incidents on Thursday and Friday.  The same old story:  When I am challenged by an authority figure, when I’m in a fatigued state, I come out with a blather of telling the person what I think they want to hear and making myself look guilty of something that, in actuality, never happened.

5.  Tax returns are done and I have worked out a more efficient system of time management, so despite some of the above, things are on an upswing.

Gratitude Week, Day 3: Health

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November 20, 2018, Prescott-

The last day of work before Thanksgiving came and went, with barely a hitch.  The students are surrounded by people who want to be working with them.  That has not always been the case, and the kids know when it isn’t.

Health, both physical and mental, depends not only on one’s genes and personal habits, but on how connected one is to those around us. I have been in good health for over ten years now, even counting the infections contracted whilst I was Penny’s caretaker and the recent knee strain.  It has been being surrounded by a largely independent, but genuinely loving, network of friends, to whom I paid homage two days ago, and to extended family, to whom I will pay similar tribute on Thanksgiving Day, which has brought me home, in terms of radiance and stamina.

A good daily balance of work and play, rest and activity, socialization and solitude has kept me in recovery from whatever ailments are brought on by aging and occasional stress.  I am grateful to do Terra essential oils, Planet Fitness and our systems of forests and parks, at all levels of government and of private landowners (Nature Conservancy, various local trusts) who allow access to their treasured sites.  I am indebted to those who provide healthful food and beverages, often but not always, free of Genetically-Modified Organisms and sometimes meatless.

I have much towards which to work, both gainfully and as a volunteer, over the next several years.  My health community is a key component of the process.

Tomorrow, I will offer a shout-out to those who have kept our communities, states and country safe and to those who work towards a safer world.

Face The Lion

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October 28, 2018, Prescott-

One month remains of my being 67.  October, thus far, has been another instance of what the forest rangers call “facing the lion”, the feline in this case being a mountain lion (aka cougar or puma).  The broader meaning of this, of course, is facing one’s trials, without flinching.

I stood for what I believe, earlier this month, was castigated for it by a troubled soul and am not sorry for standing my ground.  I have promised to not harp on this, so I won’t. The most important thing is that, if I am all but ordered to compromise who I am, under pain of disapproval- I will take the scratches and bite marks of disapproval.

Physically, I have recovered from a mild injury to my left knee and am maintaining a rehabilitative exercise regimen.  It was gratifying to have returned to our local Planet Fitness, this evening, and to have been able to complete my usual exercise regimen, with a few modifications.

Yesterday, I chose to stay close to home during the day, rather than go down to Phoenix for what would have been a mere hour, before returning to this area for a Halloween party.  The day was greatly satisfying, though, as I attended a Fall Festival, at the site of the chiropractic office which I use.  There were many raffles, and I won a plastic sled.  The sled ended up going to a five-year-old boy.  I believe every child ought to have the enjoyment of sledding on snow- and in his grandparents’ yard, to boot!

The Halloween party, at my lead teacher’s home, was a masterful blend of food and imaginative visual effects.   There were “talking” creepy ghouls and monsters and a fine variety of hot and cold buffet items.  The best part, though, were their three German shepherds, including a very vocal albino G.S., named Lloyd.  He and I got along just fine, as I would talk back to him, saying it’s all okay.

I got mesmerized by yet another replay of Bette Midler’s classic “Hocus Pocus”, which we used to play every Halloween, when Aram was a child.  It’s been a while, so looking back on how different child characters stood up to Bette’s character and her sisters was a treat.

Yes, some lions are more comical than others. Some are more problematic. All must be faced with confidence and courage.

Tangential, Part 1

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September 8, 2018, Prescott- 

This morning, on a visit to Prescott Farmers Market, I spent a few minutes sitting on a bench, near where the  guest musician was playing an acoustic version of Outkast’s “Hey Ya”, accenting the powerful words of the sometime party tune.

I began to get caught up in the presence of his delightful little family, noting his daughter’s interaction with a another little girl, about her age.  As I smiled at a nearby vendor’s waving and goofing around with the singer’s infant son, the mother looked at me quizzically and I gave her the  proper explanation, as to what was happening, before excusing myself and going off to finish my purchases for the day.

I was challenged, earlier this morning, as to having been short and to the point, in my communications of late.  Simply put, I felt a lot of pressure this week, especially at work, with hard things happening to my team members, and a difficult person inserting herself into the classroom mix.  I have no problems, in particular, with the person who sent the message this morning.  We each are highly intuitive, but intuition, on a human level, is not foolproof.  One’s own fears and challenges get mixed in, invariably.  I take my own intuition with several grains of salt, and end up doing the same with other people’s observations, regarding my life.

Prescott Farmers Market, and the local Planet Fitness franchise, are places I frequent.  I notice that, with one or two exceptions, the management team in each of these places tend to keep me (though not their favoured few) at arm’s length, most likely for good reason-but what that reason has to do with me, specifically, I’m not sure.   Conversely, having the managers of a given establishment be my well-wishers is not why I avail myself of its services.  The Market does have several stalls, where I am on good terms with the vendors and can chat for several minutes, without the emotional door slamming in my face. The gym provides me with a reliable set of full-body machines and the incomparable Hydrobed, a next-gen version of the Ceragem massage bed that we had, in the Phoenix house.  Besides, the manager’s front desk assistants are uniformly more personable, and actually seem happy to see people come in, who are less than buff.

This leads me, again, to the whole culture of anonymity that seems to pervade the urban American West.  This puzzles me.  No one really seems to enjoy living as if under siege, but each of us does it, to some degree.  I have made some headway, walking to and from downtown and Yavapai College, and joining in more group activities, especially in the past two years.

I am approaching a crossroads, of sorts, which I had hoped would not be imminent until at least Autumn, 2020.  Still very much hoping to complete this academic year in one piece, the difficult academic specialist aside, I go to work each day and give it my best.  Still hoping to be of value to my Baha’i and other communities, I am a regular at scheduled and spontaneous events.  Still hoping to keep my head above water, I listen, carefully, to the voices of both support and of criticism, to glean the necessary lessons.

Part 2:  Affirmations and expectations

 

Janus in July

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July 30, 2018, Prescott-

I will return to the chronicles of my summer road trip, in a few hours. First, though, I want to note this month’s activities, closer to Home Base.  The three weeks following Independence Day were mostly relaxing, yet had their share of joyful activity.  We celebrated the birthday of  a generous and humble friend, in what was supposed to be a surprise.  Our efforts came as no surprise to her, but she was nonetheless delighted.

I learned that my left knee does not take kindly to being idle for long stretches on the road, at least while my carcass is undergoing chiropractic adjustment, between now and March.  There is some connection between the two, so with Fall coming, I will need to get in at least one vigourous walk per day.  That will give my knees the workout they seem to crave.  Planet Fitness and Deep Blue ointment are also helping.

I have, at long last, taken the time to pay a few visits to Firehouse Coffee and Black Dog Coffee Shop, virtually completing “discovery” of our town’s java joints.  Both are fine purveyors of brew, but Firehouse wins the cinnamon roll contest.  Black Dog focuses on scones.  The Saturday after I got back was my son’s 30th birthday.  After wishing him a great day, long-distance, I went to Game Night at Wild Iris-enjoying Uno and a dice game, with the regulars at this event.

This past weekend, though, was a special cap on this bountiful summer.  I did three days’ Thursday, Saturday and Sunday) service at Bellemont Baha’i School, west of Flagstaff.  All three days featured “gully washers”. Saturday had the added excitement of a heavy hail shower.

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Even with a borrowed tent, and large tarpaulin, there was much to be done later, as I had to use a wet/dry vacuum cleaner to siphon the small pond that had threatened to ensure no sleep that night.  As it was, I had a dry tent, by nightfall, and slept very well.

The service in question was on behalf of over 50 middle school-age children, from the Phoenix area. Many of them had not been out of the metro area, so being in the woods was a fabulous experience,  to say the least.

The camp was open for a half day, today, but I came back to Prescott, last night.  Three days of preparation and “welcome back” gatherings at Prescott High School will get another year of concerted effort at learning underway.  So, it’s ten months of joyfully getting up at 4:30, knowing that we will provide at least some stability and learning opportunities for eight young people who, rather like me at their age, cannot count on their own bodies to remain calm and focused, without assistance.

2018-19 will be a monumental academic year.