Archive for category Life


I watched the State of the Union response given by Joseph Kennedy III and thought his remarks scored high from a shared values perspective. But unlike some, I’m not ready to get on the Kennedy 2020 train just yet.

I love the fact that he’s young and has the potential for energizing the youth vote, but my gut tells me Kamala Harris is a better choice.

My grandmother, Marcella Toner, held a leadership position in the democratic party in Eugene during the campaign of 1960 and was assigned to meet/greet then senator John F. Kennedy at the Eugene airport during a campaign stop. She was rewarded with a signed Christmas card from president Kennedy after his nail-biter election win in 1961. That Christmas card used to make its way to the mantle over the fireplace every year. Can’t blame them for being proud of that event.

Marcella Toner with senator Kennedy from Massachusetts on the campaign trail in 1960

Grandfather Robert Toner shaking hands with senator Kennedy

But I’m not a supporter of political dynasties. I thought Ted Kennedy served our country well and that’s great, but nobody was more relieved when Jeb Bush dropped out of the race in 2016. Part of the reason Trump won was because people were loathe to keep feeding the Clinton and Bush dynasties.

Joe Kennedy III seems like his grandfather RFK in many ways, and I find that admirable. He has a reputation in the House already as a workhorse. But fair or not, he’ll need to prove over time that he’s not in the position he’s in due his family name.

In the meantime, I continue to be impressed with the intelligence, composure, and commitment to social justice issues of Harris. She’s 53 and a while not seasoned in the Senate for very long, she was the attorney general of California from 2011-2017. She’s impressive on TV. Should she decide to run, I think she’ll have a great chance at the nomination. The time seems right for a youth movement. Biden and Sanders are too old. I’m sure both think they could win in a general election and they are probably right, but their age alone will get in the way of energizing the segment of voters who need to start carrying the torch.

Kennedy is 37. That’s a little too wet behind the ears for some including me at this juncture. Maybe 10 years from now would be about right if he developed a following and convinced enough people he was a worthy candidate apart from his Kennedy bloodline.

In the meantime, I’ll be hoping Ms. Harris has it in her to make a run in 2020.

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Don’t give away your power

This blog post is actually about counseling.  In no way am I an expert, but after 12 years as a client, I feel somewhat qualified to make a few  comments on the subject.

I don’t intend to go into my person life or the personal lives of family members, but I think I can share a few nuggets of wisdom that I learned along the way.

In retrospect I see my divorce in 2008 as a win-win.  She’s met someone who I like a lot and I think is a perfect match for her.  I’ve done the same.  It was really tough but after 27 years we had to face it.  It wasn’t working.  We got married too young.  We are different people at the core.  We’re human and humans make mistakes.  We consider ourselves lucky in that this one turned out pretty good for everyone.

15 years into the marriage we entered counseling.  In the process I feel a little bit like the blind man who had surgery and was suddenly able to see.  There were a few aha moments that changed my life for the better.  For that, I have very grateful.

One of them had to do with people connections.  Not just acquaintances, real people connections.  One day you’re thinking that you’ve got it all going pretty smooth.  Shoot you’re the Vice President of Little League Baseball.  You’re a manager at a high tech company.   Everyone knows you.   Next you realize your life consists of mostly acquaintances where you’re not really connected on a deep level in any way at home or at work.  That one was hard.  Very hard.  Life changing.

Another one was humility.  She was just so gentle with the message too.  I don’t even recall what I was talking about at the time but she interrupted me and asked “Where’s the humility in that?”  In the moment I was taken aback.  I couldn’t answer.  It didn’t make any sense.  I was brought up to see the value in humility and if anything, my parents’ capabilities and intelligence were understated.  Where did I go wrong?  I think I know the answer and it’s not really important to this blog post, but be that as it may, I learned a dose of humility goes a long way and have tried to be a different person ever since.

When someone figures you out at a deep level like this, I think there’s a danger of elevating their words to a level that’s not healthy.  They are just humans too.  They make mistakes.  But somewhere along the way I became more of a disciple than a client.   And in her own way she recognized this and corrected that line of thinking too.

Basically what she said was, “Don’t give me that power.   I don’t know everything.  You don’t need me anymore.  You can do this yourself.  It’s all in here.” And then she put her fist over her heart.

Truth be told, I think I wanted the dependency at the time.  But she was spot on.  It is in there.  We don’t need to give up our power to other people who are the experts.  They are just people.  Sometimes (not always) what we need to do is to dig deep.

Counseling is a tricky business.  I’ve talked to several.  Only 1 or 2 have made a difference so it can be hit and miss.  It’s one of those things where you really have to go with your gut.  I can attest to life changing moments that were worth every penny.  I can also attest to at least a dozen appointments that were a complete waste of time and money.

I can also say that there’s something to be said for just manning up and owning your own stuff and not looking outside for guidance.  You can’t buy your way out of it.  How do I know this?  Because I learned the hard way.

My takeaways?  You can’t take it with you.  People don’t care what titles you hold.  Live in the moment as much as possible.  Enjoy your friends and family while you can.  And don’t get too big of a head on your shoulders.  When we reveal our humanness with our flaws and all, people are actually drawn to that more.

My $.0.2

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Penn Station


I recently ran across an article on the sad state of the Hudson River tunnels that feed into Penn Station in mid town Manhattan. I felt it was alarming enough to be worthy of a quick review.

Here are some statistics and highlights from the article:

  • Penn Station services 430,000 passengers daily.  More than La Guardia, JFK, and Newark airports combined
  • The route into Penn Station from the south to the north travels through 2 tunnels beneath the Hudson River, both 107 years old
  • More than 200,000 people also use the subway stops that connect to Penn Station.  Amtrak shares the space with the Long Island Railroad and New Jersey Transit.
  • There are more than 1300 arrivals and departures every weekday

Accounts from the article talk about riding in the caboose slowly through the tunnels observing just how bad the walls have decayed to the point of crumbling concrete.  There is visible damage from the aftermath of hurricane Sandy five years ago, where sulfites and chlorides have been eating away at the concrete.

My wife and I have taken Amtrak from New York’s Penn to Boston starting and have seen first hand the volume of people and the bee-hive of activity that place is on any given day.  It’s nuts-o.  Worse than Chicago’s O’Hare on a busy day in terms of chaos.


As we learned from 9/11, the financial center of the country doesn’t react well to a crisis. Estimates by congress in 2008 projected that any disaster – natural, terrorist or decay of infrastructure that shuts down New York city would impact the U.S. economy by $100 Million per day.  The potential impact on the stock market measures in the Trillions.  The Amtrak into Penn Station is literally the artery of the U.S. Financial system.  A crucial piece of infrastructure that is crumbling as I write this.

There have been a few attempts to do something about Penn Station, but to date all of the efforts have run into unfortunate roadblocks.

  • In the late 1990s, New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan raised $350 million to replace it with a new station next to it.  The effort fell apart after 9/11.
  • In 2008, New York Governor Eliot Spitzer was on the verge of pushing through a multi-billion dollar plan to relocate Madison Square Garden, (which sits directly above Penn station and adds to the problem) and renovate Penn.  It collapsed after Spitzer’s political career tanked when he was caught patronizing prostitutes.
  • In 2009, New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine put together a fully funded 8.7 billion project for new tunnels.  Chris Christie killed the project in order to keep gas prices low.

In October of 2012, Hurricane Sandy struck the region with 80 mph winds and the water rose higher than at any time in the city’s recorded history.  The Hudson River surged over the banks of Manhattan, poured into a submerged rail yard and flooded Penn Station’s tunnels.  A few days later, Amtrak pumped out 13 million gallons of seawater.

The electrical systems now malfunction on a fairly regular basis.  It’s projected that within 7 years, even with no natural disasters the tunnels will need to be taken out of service for 18 months of repairs.  The bridges and ferries have nowhere near the capacity to pick up the slack if a tunnel needs to be taken out of service.

  • In 2015, the governors of New York and New Jersey agreed to a deal on Gateway: The states would pay half the cost of building new tunnels to Penn, and the Obama administration pledged that the federal government would cover the other half.
  • During the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump campaigned as the guy who would rebuild America’s crumbling infrastructure, promising $1 trillion to repair roads, bridges, and tunnels.  After he was elected he eliminated billions in funding for Gateway related projects in the 2018 budget and reneged on the commitment Obama made for the federal government to pay half.

As with many things in the US, we lack the vision it takes to prioritize modern infrastructure like London, Paris and Tokyo do.   The Trump administration brushed it off as a local problem.  But I wonder if those of us who will see our 401k values tank as the country’s financial center becomes paralyzed will feel the same way.  My guess is we’ll be begging for a bailout by the feds.  Anything to protect that coveted 401k, but not until I have to.

So far there have only been whispers about what Trump’s infrastructure plans might be, but the whispers have been pretty revealing: privatization.  Prisons, roads, bridges, tunnels, air traffic control, you name it.  Everything is for sale and it’s all about profit… for someone anyway.  Nothing shall get in the way of the almighty dollar.  That is of course, until you clog the artery of the thing that is feeding you those almighty dollars.

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It all starts in the tunnel

As the story went, in the 1980’s my cousin Mike, after years of laboring in the So. Cal job market and recently graduating from SDSU put together a resume where he listed his Job Objective: “To obtain the type of position where I don’t have to take a shower when I get home.”

A good writer will make a bold move like that to get the attention of the reader.

As a young technical worker at Boeing Commercial Airplane Company in the early 1980’s, I had landed one of those jobs and felt lucky to have it.  Sit at a desk all day long and do paperwork.  It was about the most boring thing you could possibly imagine, tracing airplane wire bundle drawings against the system level drawings for accuracy.

One other young colleague of mine joked about the sedentary nature of the job “Yeah, watch out for the Boeing spread.”  If I put 2 and 2 together, it meant sitting in a chair for 40 years is likely to yield a hefty backside, so be mindful of that.

A couple of years of chair sitting wasn’t working very well for me.  I felt like I needed to get moving.  Somehow, someway.   One of the guys in my group, Don Cobane, was a 20 year Boeing veteran who was very physically fit and a runner, so I was talking to him about the options.

Come to find out, about 5 years prior, he weighed in about 100 pounds heavier and had this moment where he slid his chair around his desk and got his stomach caught on the pull out drawer.  He was so mad and embarrassed at the time that he slammed the drawer back in the desk and said “That’s it.  I’m going to do something about this.”  I’ve since wondered if I’d ever have my “Don Cobane” moment where you just get sick of not taking care of your physical self well enough.

At the time, about 20,000 people worked at the Boeing plant in Everett, Wa.  The building, all 4 assembly lines connected, holds the Guinness World Record as the largest building in the world with a volume of 472,000,000 cubic feet (13.3 million cubic meters).


There were no gym facilities anywhere to be found at the site in the factory or its adjacent office buildings.  In talking with Cobane I found out about this underground tunnel that people run in when the weather is bad, so I figured it might be worth a look.

Turns out there are 2.33 miles of underground pedestrian tunnels running below the assembly lines pictured above.

So sometime in about 1982 I started a lunch-time exercise routine that began with “running in the tunnel.’   There’s nothing sexy about running in the tunnel.  Dark, dingy, not very well-lit.  Poorly ventilated. The smell of crusty pipes. This particular tunnel had columns in the middle so that it was set up kind of like a swim lane.  The tunnel was 1/3 of a mile long, so if you wanted to run 2 miles, that’s 6 lengths, or up and back 3 times.  I actually found a picture of the real deal on the inter-webs.  It’s exactly how I remembered it.


Most groups at Boeing, even the engineering groups had fairly strict rules with respect to the amount of time you could take for your lunch hour.  Officially it was 40 minutes.  Heading out to the tunnel, dressing down in a very crowded seriously smelly locker room a couple of stories above the tunnel, doing the actual run, shower and get back to work took the full 40 minutes and then some.

People say that running around the track is boring.  Try a tunnel.  But I managed to get myself down there a few times a week and get a routine started, and I felt better and stronger almost right away.

When the weather warms up, it’s really hard to justify heading down to the tunnel, but the problem was, there weren’t that many good routes to run outside the plant.  But there were a few and as human nature dictates, if you’re stuck in a crummy situation, you start  to look for something better.

A few months in my times were getting a little bit faster and I’d met some guys who were determined to do the outdoor routes when the sun came out.  If we really hustled, we could get 3 miles in and get back to work without being too tardy.  This was much more enjoyable.

A few years later I got transferred to a building that wasn’t inside the main complex, but about 1/2 mile from the main plant.  And it had its own little locker room.  This is where my running started to take off a bit.  The next thing I knew I was doing 4 miles at lunch.  And then 6.   I was getting hooked.  Almost every day I’d head out with a group of guys and taking 4-6 miles at lunch with a ‘long’ one on the weekends of closer to 10.

Summer came around and I was with the family on a 4 day weekend at Seaside, Oregon.  I was 30 at the time.  The house we stayed in was a small 2 bedroom house but we used to pack 10 or more people in there on any given weekend.  What this mostly meant was that the bathroom (singular) was backed up most of the morning so I might as well go for a good long run.

The day before, in town I ran across a pamphlet for the Portland Marathon.  I grabbed it with the idea I’d learn about it later.  On my Saturday run, all I could think about was the Portland Marathon and how I was in the best position to give it a go right now, and if I don’t do it this year, I probably never will.  That particular day I ran up to Gearhart and back and put in about 11 miles.

By the time I got home I made the decision to go for it.  I read that pamphlet 100 times by my bedside.  The marathon date was at the end of September and it was about the end of June now.  I had 3 months to get my miles up from the 30 mile range to 50, with long runs of 20+ in there somewhere.  I put together a very detailed plan.  At that point I was almost obsessed with the idea.  I knew what time I wanted to average, what time I wanted to achieve and constantly strategized on how to best train for this event.

Along the way I ran my first 10k and in early September I entered a half marathon.  Enjoyed both of those but the idea of doing a full still seemed pretty daunting.

The big day arrived and I was excited and ready.  The weather was perfect for the 7am start.  I ripped off the first 10 miles at about 8 min/mile pace and felt really good.  I think I started slowing down a bit around 15 miles, but pressed on.  At 23 I was pretty dehydrated and decided to actually stop at the water table and get some water, but walk fast while drinking it.  After about 100 yards I decided to get back in running form again and everything stiffened up.  That was a scary moment but I got past it.  I’m guessing my last 3 miles were at closer to 10 min/mile pace.  Pretty slow but I was so happy because at that point there was no doubt I was going to make it.  And I did.  3:43 and change. Pretty much exactly the time I was striving for.  Anything under 3:45 was going to be considered a win for me.

What brings me down memory lane this evening is the thought patterns I have as I hop on the treadmill in the morning at age 58.  I’m way overdue for some exercise.  Way overdue.  To be completely honest, I think I’m on the verge of a Don Cobane moment.

I can’t even come close to the times I used to put in.  Even on the treadmill now I’ve got more of a walk/run routine going, so it’s not really even running yet.  But what keeps me going some days (like this morning), is just the thought that “It all starts in the tunnel.”

The tunnel was only 2 miles and at a slow pace at first.  But the point is I started somewhere and didn’t just sit in that chair resigning myself to the Boeing spread.

I believe most people have instincts that drive us to compete against ourselves.  If I did 2 miles yesterday, maybe I’ll do 2.25 next week because 2 miles is getting boring.  And while I’m at it, I might try to improve my time by 10 seconds too.  It’s just human nature.  But in order for human nature to have a chance to succeed, you gotta get down to that tunnel and get going on something.

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In Praise of Republicans against Raunch

There’s an ancient proverb that says “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

I’m reminded of this because I’m both encouraged and fascinated by the list of long time republicans coming out as #NeverTrumpers.  I’m talking about prominent conservatives who have been publicly supportive of the party for decades who are now openly criticizing the president on all forms of media.

As I read the tweets of Rick Wilson, Bill Kristol, Margaret Hoover, Cheri Jacobus, and Ana Navarro for example, I find myself in complete agreement with much of what they are saying.  And these are long time staunch, prominent republicans.   It’s inspiring to see people of stature have enough courage to choose country over party.

So what happened?  My first thought goes back to how brutal the primaries were and how Trump’s nicknames for his opponents ended up sticking.  Little Marco.  Low energy Jeb.  Lyin’ Ted Cruz.  He picked a fight with the establishment from the first debate.  This cost him the support of the entire Bush family and many of its loyal followers including Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, Tom Ridge and party pundits Cheri Jacobus, Margaret Hoover, and Steve Schmidt.  Not long ago, these were frequent guests on Fox News supporting candidates McCain and Romney.

Next was the infamous kerfuffle with Megyn Kelly during the first debate.  The fallout from the was a loss of support from strong women like Ana Navarro and Jennifer Rubin.

It’s much easier to come out as a #NeverTrumper when you are personally attacked.

When George W. Bush was president, I wrote plenty on policy differences and the inherent greed of the republican party, but I never once suspected him of being a racist.  In fact, just the opposite.  He always went out of his way to be inclusive of all Americans. He understood basic decency in addition to the political necessity of having moderate Muslims on your side to win the war on terror.  In this regard, he was a good man.

Charlottesville was where I think Trump lost the last vestige of hope he had from the republican establishment.  His “both sides” narrative caused several other prominent republican figures to join the #NeverTrump bandwagon.

In the Netflix series “The Crown”, prince Phillip sent Charles to the same boys school he attended as a child – and hated.  Predictably, Charles hated it too.  It was a clear example of the “strict father” approach.  The “my dad made me do things I didn’t like, but it made a man out of me” mindset.

It used to be that you could count on the representatives of the party to be supporting a platform straight from the strict father paradigm, complete with personal responsibility, hard work, love of God and country.  There’s nothing inherently wrong with this message.  The issue has always been where to set the social safety net.  Democrats have pushed more towards socialism.  Republicans would like a society where, if you make bad choices, that’s your tough shit.  They don’t understand the concept of having been born on third base, and the message about compassion got lost somewhere between the sermon and coffee and donuts.

But recently the party tent has gotten a little too wide for many.  It’s as if long time republicans got invited to an upscale Ivy League frat party, got all dressed up and expected an evening of social snobbery and cigars, but then the host let the Nazi’s from down the street in, and started excluding people at the door for their religion and race.  And then, late in the evening the jokes about pussy grabbing started.  At that point, some started to realize they were living the Animal House experience, felt uncomfortable with the level of raunchy behavior now inside the party tent and decided to check out.

During the 1980 presidential campaign Ronald Reagan was asked why he left the Democratic party.  “I didn’t leave the party”, he said.  “The party left me.”  I’m pretty sure this is example what is happening with the current GOP.

Twitter gave Trump a direct line to the American people and it was an effective tool for him to get his message across, however deceitful.  But there’s also a saying about what goes around comes around.  The same tool that can prop a guy up to the highest office in the land can also take him down.  If you have the chance, I’d encourage you to follow these courageous republicans on Twitter.  I’m liking what I am hearing because it gives me hope we can get back to some sense of normalcy.

===== Twitter Handles of Prominent #NeverTrump Republicans =====

@BillKristol, @CheriJacobus, @TheRickWilson, @SteveSchmidtSES, @ananavarro, @GeorgeWill, @nytdavidbrooks, @douthatNYT, @MJGerson, @MargaretHoover, @JRubinBlogger, @benshapiro, @CondoleezzaRice,


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2017 – The Year in Review

We’re not very good at sending out Christmas cards anymore, so WordPress it is.

Speaking of review, I recently revisited a blog post I had written a year ago Adios 2016 which was less than upbeat.  In memory of a dear friend who passed away this year, here’s how it started out:

Back in the mid 1980’s, an activist friend of mind Dave Aldrich sent out a memorable Christmas letter that was definitely one of a kind.  In this short missive he astutely pointed out about a dozen things that are just wrong in this world, covering the gamut from wasteful military spending, the oxymoron of compassionate conservatism, greedy politicians, abject poverty, the decline of unions and the middle class, and tax cuts for the wealthy.  It was a pithy list of gripes and then he simply signed it –“Merry Christmas.”

I always admired this independent minded thinker, and the courage to send that out.  I’ve been tempted a few times myself.

I’m happy to report I’m much more upbeat going into 2018!  This may be hard to fathom since 90% of my posts are negative, but having given republicans a full year to implode (and them not disappointing me by exceeding my implosion expectations), I can say with certainty that this year’s review will include quite a few more affirmative statements.

January and February will henceforth be remembered as “the back surgery months.”  You don’t want to hear the specifics about my back woes.  Suffice it to say, a lot of pills, a couple of relatively minor surgeries and I’m back in business.

Our financial plan doesn’t permit us to take a big trip every year.  2017 was destined to be the year of “a lot of small, but enjoyable trips” and definitely lived up to that.

In April we spent a four-day weekend with our friends Wayne and Tricia at their new home in Sahuarita, Arizona, just south of Tucson.  It was really great to see them again and tool around, experiencing the southern part of the U.S., which we don’t get to do very often.  Nothing fancy, just good friends and good times.

Early summer we spent a long weekend out at Crystal Mountain Sports Haus in Vernonia with a group of friends and enjoyed a lot of laughs.  Some were bikers.  Others golfers.  Such a great getaway that’s sort of right in our back yard.

Late summer we lost Donna’s step-dad Harvey.  He was a definitely a character and will be sorely missed at this year’s gatherings.  Being involved with Donna’s mom’s move to a retirement home kept Donna busy through the summer.  The good news is that Janet has settled in nicely in her new place and is doing really well.

August was definitely jam packed as we traveled up to the Seattle area for the annual family reunion at Lake Margaret hosted by my sister Jackie and brother-in-law Rich Watkins.  The lake was warm.  The card games were very memorable.  We had a fun time as usual.

No sooner did we get back from Lake Margaret and I’ll be darned if Donna didn’t have an outdoor backyard birthday party here at the house where I was joined by former band-mate David Poarch in a live duo performance that was a terrific experience.  The best memory from that evening was dedicating a song “To Love Somebody” by the Bee Gees to my son Dan and his fiancé Emily.

The next weekend we traveled down to the Junction City area to participate in Dan and Emily’s wedding, complete with over 100 seats from Autzen stadium circa 1967.  The weather cooperated, the dance floor was full, the couple looked extremely happy, and dad was proud.  What more can I say?

I’ll be darned if we didn’t have another family wedding to go to in October when my nephew Jeff Stein got married in Santa Barbara, CA.  We made a 3 day weekend out of it and had a wonderful time with…. all the people we just saw at Lake Margaret and Dan and Emily’s wedding.  Oh well, it was good to see them again!

In early December Donna and I rented a place at Black Butte ranch for the weekend and took Pickles with us.  She only escaped once.  Luckily we found her before it got dark.  We didn’t do a whole lot on that trip other than venture into Sisters and visit the Head of the Metolius River, but that was the point.  So mission accomplished.

We’ve also very fortunate to have a circle of friends who like to get together about once a month and have themed dinner of sorts.  Food from around the globe or get in the spirit of an event like the Kentucky Derby – and dress the part.  Donna and I actually bet money online and came out ahead.  Beginner’s luck I guess.  When it’s at our place, they indulge my guitar playing for a few songs.  It’s almost like I have a gig.  There’s no tip jar but they threw money my way anyway, so I must have done something right.

Other than work (ugh), we have our little side projects we do.  Donna is constantly exploring new art forms.  I won’t pretend I know anything about art so you can talk to her about it, but the creations are definitely unique and her brain child.  I’ve gotten back into music a little bit when I’m not working (ugh).  A friend of mine gifted me his old electronic drum kit so I have that to dink around with.  I recently started up lessons again.  I’m starting to put tunes out on as time allows with myself on guitars, bass, keys, and drums.  Maybe if I get a few decent ones out there I’ll send the link around.  Right now I’m definitely a work in progress.

To end on an upbeat note, Donna and I have completely ditched CNN and are faithful followers of Rachel Maddow now.  That’s our new show.  And she rocks.  Donna is now a daily Twitter user.  She doesn’t post a lot, but we have fun sharing the Tweets we’ve read.

With any luck, the FBI will be heading to the supply locker to fetch around 20 pairs of handcuffs one of these days making for an awesome 2018!

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Thanksgiving and Thanks

As one of the top complainers on the internet, I figured it’d be a good change of pace today to come up with some things I am thankful for.  I have every expectation this will be an easy exercise.

First, I am thankful I was lucky enough to be raised by Jim and Gwen Toner.  It all kind of starts there, right?  Our parents are our main influences, and without them, we wouldn’t be the people we are today.  I could list 100 things about them both that I am thankful for, but I’ll just mention the one that has stayed with me the longest over time.  They both understood that raising children involved making personal sacrifices.  Because of their understanding of this, I know I’m in a better place than many.  We didn’t have a lot of money.  We never owned a boat or fancy cars.  I don’t recall a vacation that wasn’t either camping or climbing into the car for a long drive.  If anything, the family had quite a bit of medical related debt most of the time, but we had each other and a vision about the type of person they were trying to mold us into — work ethic, attitude and moral compass were always high on the list — with room to be yourself as well.   Mom’s example taught me that all you really need in life is a good group of friends and deck of cards.  Dad taught me that the harder I try, the luckier I get.   The educational experience I was exposed to taught me that wealth is a relative thing.  Even with an uphill battle ahead of us to get ahead, compared to 2/3 of the rest of the world, The Toner family — all 6 of us living on a middle school teacher’s income most of the time, were born on 3rd base.   I’m reminded of that often.

I am also thankful for my loving wife Donna who gets me at the deepest level and accepts me for who I am at all times.  We are very different individuals.  In many cases polar opposites.  Yet I am so enriched by her presence and lucky to have found her that I try to never take that for granted.   I wish everyone could be this lucky.   The last 9 years have been an amazing journey.  In our vows we both acknowledged that life will bring us headwinds, and to be sure it has.  But at the core, if you’re with someone who has the head and the heart to deal with adversity, you have nothing to worry about.  That’s why when I proposed, and said those vows, I didn’t think twice about it and have been living a charmed life ever since.  Grow old with your best friend is a beautiful thing.

Since last Thanksgiving I have two new daughter-in-laws that I’m very thankful for.  Ari and Emily are enriching Rob and Dan in much the same way Donna enriches me.  This was a New Year’s wish of mine a few years ago … that my son’s meet a nice girl, and it came to be.  I am thankful for the boys finding their soul mates and carving out paths for themselves and being independent men who think for themselves always.

I am thankful the Gilpin family who has makes me proud every day in the way they raise our 2 grandchildren, Kaden and Karter.  These are going to be two fine young men.  I’ll bet the farm on it.

I am grateful for my sisters who are all wonderful human beings in every way.  The competition continues this day with Words with Friends and after going 0-fer the 1960’s against them in every game imaginable, I’m finally getting some satisfaction out of game playing with them.  I’m not sure if they let me win once in a while or not, but it sure feels good when I do.  Thank goodness for the word “strength meter” or else I’d lose every time.   That tool levels the playing field a bit.

I am thankful for my extended Fritts family who, despite my wearing Duck gear, invite me to join at their Thanksgiving feast every year.  This year had some challenges and adversity in having to deal with a death in the family and moving mom.   It was awesome to witness the incredible teamwork in the face of all of this.  I’m sure that the 5 kids are just as thankful for Janet and Dorence as I am of Jim and Gwen for much the same reasons.  When the chips are down, the family hangs together.

I’m very thankful for my friends.  In recent years I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s good to go for quality over quantity.  Well, duh, that should have been obvious, but some of us are slow learners.   It’s not easy being my friend sometimes, especially if you’re a Republican.  So thanks for hanging in there Karla and Mike!   Mom’s example of the deck of cards and good group of friends often crosses my mind these days.

I am thankful for my health.  It’s not been stellar of late – some minor bumps in the road, but once again I’m reminded of the relative nature of this.  Compared to the rest of the world, my health is on 3rd base.   As we encounter friends and family who also battle health issues, it’s a constant reminder to live in the moment.  Ever the planner, that’s a concept that has taken a while to register with me, but I’m getting there.

I’m thankful that through nothing more than chance, I was born in one of the most awesome areas in the world, the Pacific Northwest, which, after visiting other parts of the country, man it’s nice to step back onto that one of a kind carpet at PDX and get to call this place home.

Last but not least, I’m thankful that I live in a country where we have the first amendment (which I freely exercise on Twitter daily).  The struggles of the past year that are tearing at the very fabric of this country and sure to be temporary.   Sometimes the pendulum swings pretty far in one direction but it always corrects itself.  I’m confident in that we’ll be okay.  We might have to go through some pain in the short-term, but we’ll get through it.  I believe the goodness of the human spirit will prevail in the long run.  My approach has been to be a part of the resistance movement, which feels right to me.  I’m thankful everyone who joins in the resistance movement in whatever way they are able to.







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