Going Boldly Yet Wisely

By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
― Benjamin Franklin

America now stalls in a crisis of political stalemate as the prospects of a federal governmental shutdown looms in less than a day. Why does the President seesaw back and forth about immigration goals/policies that he will support to prolong this crisis? Why does Congress require an impending catastrophe to motivate them to pass a viable, budgetary plan? How much does our country’s image suffer at home and abroad in the current divisive atmosphere of hate and blame?

A4964F9C-D9F5-4F45-9958-B752156AA473 Similarly, our worldwide travel experiences have taught us that waiting to the last moment to prepare for unfamiliar wanderings can result in unintended negative circumstances. Becoming aware of the challenges of cultural difference, border entry/exit and weather unpredictability, for instance, requires mindful diligence in our trip pre-planning efforts. Several lessons from our traveling past come to mind to more proactively plan our journeys beforehand.

C6EA3101-B029-4107-847A-9EB21910E80AWhen Communism reigned in Eastern Europe decades ago, our innocent arrival as backpacking novices to Prague, Czechoslovakia brought us a rude awakening about how to travel independently. Expecting to book a hotel room for a few nights as the city eerily darkened in early evening, we realized that certain, missing travel documents required for stay in the country would leave us stranded there without opportunity of booking a room. Finding little use for our English language as well as facing a frightening encounter with police ultimately ended with an uncomfortable stay at the American Embassy. We would now learn to familiarize ourselves beforehand with travel restrictions for visiting an unfamiliar country.

7F3EF0F7-991B-415D-84E3-CA589D062E25Another crisis would be encountered in Spain on a Metro Underground train to and from major sights in Madrid. On July 4, in the early 1990s, I drew attention to myself with my trendy, American sports hat, loose, waist bound fanny pack, and pockets of sloppily protruding map collection in a densely packed, subway atmosphere. Approaching a busy station, several young men working together suddenly sprung on me. They then quickly managed to restrain my arms, spray my eyes with irritant, cut the straps, and “make off” with my fanny pack through the now open, exit doors. Unable to stop their timed getaway, the whereabouts of these valuable possessions would never be found. Wearing our fanny pack inside our clothes, selecting travel attire for function not appearance, and knowing the most dangerous locations in cities beforehand would soon become our norms when traveling by public transportation in densely packed, European cities.

EAA9B719-94D7-47BC-8A2F-F0A8173C2443 I vividly recall as well a weather anomaly we experienced on a thirty day camping tour across the “Outback” Of Australia. Not realizing that July in the Southern Hemisphere meant the presence of winter, we were unprepared night after night for the cold, inland regions of this vast continent, at this time of year. Shivering in our frozen tent or in unheated, campground laundry rooms, we learned a hard lesson as tropically accustomed South Floridians to check out our weather tolerance for engaging in future outdoor adventures beforehand.

ECCCDFEF-6A16-46E6-AD97-6B59C322571AIn a few weeks, my wife and I will embark on our 5th road trip cross country from South Florida.Some featured visits this year will include Seattle, Big Bend and Glacier National Parks and Eastern Canada. Our latest priorities favor improved navigation through online apps/website channels, packing less, and mindfully staying in better contact with our close friends and aging family. I hope you will continue to follow my travel blog as I relate my insights of the present moment in “Snippets of the Traveling Mind.”

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Favorite Western Towns (SLO)

SAN LUIS OBISPO (SLO)

Current Population – 47,536.
Elevation – 233’ With coastal mountains rising to near 2,000’
Founded – 1772 as a Spanish mission by Junipero Serra
Average Temperature – 59 Degrees Fahrenheit
Notable Tourist Interest – Water Sports, Hiking/Biking Trails

Picturesque towns amidst the Pacific coastal regions of Central California have represented a favorite destination for my wife and I in our road trip travels. Located nearly equidistant between Los Angeles and San Francisco, the laidback atmosphere, seasonable climate, cultural amenities, and natural beauty of these smaller communities have consistently satisfied our tourist interest for brief stopovers as well as longer term stays. What makes SLO so special to us? Here are five reasons why?

CURIOUS MINDS NEED LIFELONG LEARNING

We always look forward to immersing ourselves in the “college town” atmosphere of the main campus of Cal Poly University. Searching for educational/cultural happenings, we spent extended time at Cal Poly during the weeklong visit of Tibetan monks as they constructed a mandala design in the Student Union for the student body.

 

GRASS ROOTS ACTIVISM MATTERS

Both of us enjoy volunteering our time on the road when we can. Feeling politically engaged on our last SLO stay, we joined a Community Science Walk protest. Marching peacefully through Old Town SLO, we felt empowered that our plea for progressive change would be constructively answered.

 

STAYING ACTIVE MEANS EXPLORING PACIFIC SHORES

In the greater SLO vicinity, we love the challenge of finding manageable hike opportunities there. Our favorite walk took place at Montana De Oro State Park last spring, when we witnessed awe-inspiring views of the cliffside Pacific along the shoreline Bluff Trail. This coastal gem was not the easiest place to find but in retrospect, getting lost in these wilds seemed well worth the effort.

 

LIFE SLOWS DOWN IN “OLD TOWN” AMERICA

SLO consistently earns national recognition as among the happiest places to visit in America. One of the best times to witness this positive atmosphere would be the weekly Farmer’s Market along “Old Town” Higuera Street every Thursday evening. Instead of fighting the crowds, however, on our last visit we opted for a slower “West Coast” mentality and savor a relatively quiet, barbecue dinner at the nearby Firestone Grill.

 

SPECIAL OCCASIONS ADD VARIETY

In spite of our budgetary limitations on the road, splurging for good reason is not out of the question. On last year’s stopover in SLO, we spontaneously decided to add a slice of romance to our long enduring marriage by booking an elegant dinner at the historic Madonna Inn.

 

Making More Out Of “Alexa”

“We’re born alone, we live alone, we die alone. Only through our love and friendship can we create the illusion for the moment that we’re not alone.”
— Orson Welles

Alexa Can Never See Smile Or Spurn
Machine Packaged Voice Gives Mere Factual Learn
Clutched Hands And Tense Arms Now Need Something To Hug
Yet Your Emotionless Bits Moves Me Only To Shrug

You Conspire With Siri To Answer Each Query
Yet Never Have Interest In Sadness And Weary
Never To Argue Or Feel Throes Of Life Pain
Offer Me Hope From Indifference Of Brain

Affairs Of The Heart Take More Time To Strong Settle
But I Seem To Talk Coldly To Instance Of Metal
Greet Me Each Day With Strong Message Of Hope
As Truth Lies Elusive On Slippery Slope

Alexa Good Morning Let Us Dance To Our Song
And Never Find Reason To Know Rightness Or Wrong

 

White Noise: Are You In?

“There’s no place you can go on the prairie that you don’t hear the white noise of the wind, steady and rough as surf curling along a non-existant shore.” Diane Ackerman

On many days,I feel overwhelmed by a constant barrage of mind-taxing distractions. Slick TV commercials gain my immediate attention to interrupt my flow of thought about a favorite movie I am watching. Car horns blast in congested highways as I attempt to negotiate around a blocked lane in front of me. The shrill bark of a neighborhood dog breaks the nightly silence while I need to experience restful sleep. As result of such random chaos in my daily routine, I must learn to better cope with my external environment to concentrate on the  intended task at hand.

7A8BC09D-FE66-42DB-B1A1-2ACEB069F6FDTo more clearly understand my solution to this attention-deficit dilemma, three eras of my past life surface immediately. In college, I recall paying avid attention to pulsating strobe lights on the dance floor, bubbling lava lamps in my college dorm as well as pleasing vocal harmonics of “Chicago”, “The Eagles” and “The Moody Blues” in concert. Being an innovation-striving teacher/professor, my later decision to play “Mozart Effect” music as a background stimuli for student journal writing activities proved useful for stimulating more focused thoughts and creative energy. As an aspiring athlete, I look back to my time as a 10K runner. Attempting to block out  awareness of physical pain as such exertion induced “hormonal highs”, I steadily improved my performance times in each competition. To further enhance my resolve to stay positive in performing this arduous task, I found it equally useful to headphones playing customized sets of quiet music.

1DFAB599-E102-4849-B9CE-FB50F6240BF8Consider then, my logical reasoning to utilize “White Noise” as a new concentration paradigm now. Combining pleasing sights with natural sounds or classical music as a background stimuli, I continue my persistent quest to block out unwanted external noise that distracts my attention from focus on the present moment. Whether “White Noise” vibrations are artificially taped or naturally experienced, I strongly contend that the end result of using this technique in the following interventions will facilitate a focused mind in my retirement years.

Listen To Nature

As an independent traveler around the world, the pleasing sounds of nature evoke powerful emotions of feeling “alive in the present moment. On day hikes, I take notice of the steady sounds of a bubbling brook or a crackling snow field to set the tone for greater concentration on the “now” moment of my curious mind.” On long distance cruises, I read quietly on deck as I listen to the pleasantries of a lapping wave or hungry seagull.

Meditate With Yoga

At home, I feel privileged to practice yoga 2-3 times each week in the company of an experienced yogi trainer. In each session, I focus on conscious breath awareness accompanied by Buddhistic chants, wind chimes, and “thought of the day”recitals, In essence, I strive to find “zen serenity” and inhibit negative thoughts of past/present to control my incessant “monkey mind.”

FE117235-1F76-4D62-BFDD-1BBD54833075Overcome Stress

There are great dangers when one chooses to become exposed to anger and pessimism In life. Resulting stress behaviors of worry and doubt can jeopardize your health as well as the efficiency of your daily routine. So I now consider it critical for me to begin each day with the prerecorded sounds of my “White Noise app rather than hear the latest blame-filled tweets of our current President. At mealtimes, I turn off the TV and ask Alexa on my living room, Echo device to play me some soothing nature sounds. Foregoing Facebook and Twitter rants at bedtime, I instead might put on an inspiring classical piece of music as I imagine my cherished house cat nearby pleasantly purring me to experience the egoless bliss of restful sleep.

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Web References:

https://psmag.com/news/the-art-and-science-of-white-noise

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/memory-medic/201706/does-white-noise-help-you-learn-0?

https://www.cartoonstock.com/directory/w/white_noise.asp

Let’s Act Without Labels

“Once you label me you negate me” Soren Kierkegaard

My wife always reminds me of one of her favorite phrases when I go into my “mental meltdowns” about others I disagree with. Practice the ideal of “To Each His/Her Own”. Having spent a lifetime as an educator assigning labels to my students based on informal observations and test results, it seemed “second nature” then that I could detach myself so emotionally from them as I assigned predetermined labels conveniently for my teaching needs. For my student victims, however, being categorized as slow learner, emotionally handicapped, or learning disabled….would represent a permanently stereotyped imprint on their fragile minds for the rest of their lives.

A more extreme example of this phenomenon occurred during the rise of Adolph Hitler in his propaganda campaign for expelling Jews in conjunction with the rise of Aryan Nazi Power. Stereotyped as outcasts in increasingly demeaning ways, innocent Jews were forced to live in depressing “ghettos” and wear the yellow star of “Jude” as constant reminders of their alleged inferior status. Ominously, such inhumane branding resulted in “The Holocaust”, a systematically bureaucratic, state-sponsored persecution and cold-blooded murder of six million Jews by the Nazi regime and its collaborators.

BE339026-EF4F-4A49-8B7C-D5F94BCFF633In Nazi schools, stereotyped persecution of Jewish children became particularly heinous. Witness the case of Rebecca Weisner, who recalled her anti-Semitic treatment in her German school: “When I was six, Hitler came to power. I started school in April 1933, just at the same time… There were some German girls I was friends with – we grew up together – and, all of a sudden, one day I come down and they call me dirty Jew. My friends, the friends I grew up with! I couldn’t comprehend it. I would say to my mother, Why do they call me dirty? I am not dirty. And she said, You had better get used to it. You’re Jewish, and that is what you have to learn. So just take it. But I didn’t want to take it. I fought.”

Or consider the traumatic recollections of Hedwig Ertl as a teenage student: “We had a history teacher who was a very committed National Socialist, and we had four Jewish pupils. And they had to stand up during the class, they weren’t allowed to sit down. And one after the other they disappeared, until none were left, but nobody thought much about it. We were told they had moved…. We were told all the time that first the Jews are a lower kind of human being, and then the Poles are inferior, and anyone who wasn’t Nordic was worthless.”

614B859B-967F-4B26-AE13-16DBC7811342These days, I observe a similar stereotyping phenomena in the political arena as “Leftists and Rightists”emotionally “buy in “ to their separate categories to lay claim to their own theories about what needs to be done for reaching the “promised land” in our country. Unsurprisingly then, such appeal to one’s self-full filling view of political party domination perpetuates confusing, “cognitive dissonance” when situations require them to uncomfortably look beyond their narrow frame of reference to recognize opposing points of view. In effect, we now have endless, political gridlock as so vividly captured today by polarizing anger and blame intensifying in the first year of the Trump Presidency.

B1855746-AE41-4206-846D-5B7E6595167ERepublicans and Democrats should not be labeled as exclusively conservative or liberal respectively. Nor should stereotypical blindness deny our pursuit of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” for all. Imagine we together embrace the phrase “May The Force Be With You“of Star Wars fame as a new anthem for reminding us to find such unity in our daily lives.

Blog References:

1.Jewish Children In The Nazi Classroom

http://spartacus-educational.com/Jewish_Children.htm

2.A Student In a Nazi School

https://www.ushmm.org/remember/office-of-survivor-affairs/
memory-project/featured-writers/wiener-student

“Art Basel” Daring Display Of Love

I feel that there is nothing more truly artistic than to love people.”
— Vincent Van Gogh

Any visit to Miami evokes a nostalgic flow of my emotions these days. During a difficult, thirteen year tenure of teaching disadvantaged, middle school students in inner city schools, there, from 1982-1995, I often lacked awareness of how stimulating this unconventionally modern city really was. Yet in my infrequent visits to downtown, now, I see both sides of the extremes of human condition. Witness now the stark contrast of glittering skyscrapers and luxurious mansions overlooking pristine, Biscayne Bay with the heart-wrenching poverty of Overtown and Liberty City further inland.

Miami also casts another flair for the extreme as winter-weary tourists and freedom-seeking immigrants flock to this magic land of subtropical fantasy to experience the good life of the “American Dream.” One would not be surprised to know then that the internationally renowned, Art Basel Exhibition would find an ideal home for its eclectic collection of bold, modern art here. Since its Miami inaugural in 2002, Art Basel now showcases over 200 of the world’s leading international modern and contemporary art galleries with eclectic artworks by over 4,000 artists, including paintings, sculptures, as well as installations of photography, film, video, and digital art.

Recently, my wife and I fortunately obtained free tickets to two, major exhibitions at Art Basel: “Context” and “Art Miami” in early December, thereby avoiding the normally the steep rate of $50.00 for daily admission. Our mid-morning arrival at the fair that day would allow us to saunter freely amidst the relatively uncongested aisles at our leisure. Having no desire to purchase art pieces that exceeded our income, we quietly reveled in the multifaceted spirit of “Embrace Love in Life” that pervaded this year’s collection. Several art pieces “caught my eye” to exemplify my own perceptions of this underlying theme..

1. Find Empathy For Oppressed Condition

2. Appreciate the Friendship Of Animal Life

3. Find Serenity Of Inner Peace

4. Arouse One’s Sensory Addiction Of Food

5.Embrace Political Differences

6. Feel Groove For Oldies Music

7. Be Curious To Travel

8. Arouse Sexual Pleasure

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9. Conquer Mental Distraction

10.Lighten Up And Enjoy A Childhood Spirit

 

We Can Do Better As Americans

“Politics is an act of faith you have to show some kind of confidence in the intellectual and moral capacity of the public.” — George McGovern

Every morning, I wake up to a firestorm of doubt as to the direction of my country’s future. How can an alleged child molester be endorsed as a policy maker on the national scale in this country? Does a physically violated woman have any reasonable recourse to fight sexual harassment here? Why does Twitter allow our President to continue his personal attacks on others on a daily basis? Is fake news the law of the land? Why do conspiracy theories distort truth so that facts cannot be fully trusted? Is our country’s security being well served when our intelligence agencies become Presidential targets of blame?

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Amidst this crisis of values, I do recognize that there are a several signs of hope. I am encouraged by the election of Democrat Doug Jones in a traditionally red state electorate as a mandate that our country has begun to heal from this confused malaise of values. I also believe that the emerging, open discussion of sexual harassment today bodes well for a fair resolution to this issue. As the Russian collusion investigation methodically continues, I finally take heart that justice will prevail without political obstruction/interference.

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What actions will elevate my own principles to foster respect for “e pluribus unum”? I want to speak proudly of my country when I travel overseas. I desire to stand with all Americans at sporting events to salute our flag. I yearn to march in protest against acts of prejudice that sever our commitment to human dignity of any race, color, or creed. I will vote only for those who honor the spirit of my Constitutional rights and freedoms. I will stay readily informed about timely issues in my spare time with foremost respect for fact.

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I cannot imagine that our country can wait three more years until new elections resume in our current state of ethical decay. An angry tweet, self-centered, photo op, or divisive campaign rally will not solve America’s crisis of human decency. If we are living in a reality show Presidency , understand that this TV show can be cancelled due to low ratings. Realize also that when this moment occurs, others will mightily fall. We can do better as Americans.

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Lessons Of A Worldly Walker

FD2A8232-1BB5-4E9A-B7EB-8762DBB43928Let’s add up the numbers on our latest adventure abroad. In twenty three, consecutive days of independent travel to Paris, Dublin, London, and Rome, my I-Phone pedometer recorded that my wife and I had walked over 80 miles total distance. That’s around 3.5 miles or over 10,000 steps in daily exertion. Clearly, we continue to prefer traversing major sights on foot in our European travels. Yet, on several occasions, during this challenging journey, our will to “hit the streets” regularly had been severely tested.

1. The Complexity Of Stuff

The essentials of conducting city walks for us in densely populated areas in Europe requires considerable planning. Since heavy backpacks no longer suit us, we economized on what we included in in our smaller day packs for both space and weight purposes. Our most important essentials for daily storage would as a result include bottles of water, backup chargers, emergency snacks, and lightweight umbrellas/jackets. Bulky maps and travel guides had now been rendered obsolete as we downloaded information about desired places to visit beforehand using apps like “Triposo”and “Maps + Me.” Wearing well cushioned walking shoes seemed equally important as well.

2. Europe Often Designs Vertically

European infrastructure designs present a formidable pedestrian challenge. When traveling by “Metro”in the Chatelet stop in Paris or the Victoria Station “Tube” hub in London, for example, we typically traversed challenging distances into the depths of the underground to reach our designated point of departure. While escalators did exist at a selected stations, we often faced a stampede of busy commuter foot traffic along these pathways in reaching our departure points. Additionally, navigation around sights like “The Spanish Steps”in Rome or “Sacre Couer” in Paris, dictated that we ascend steeply by foot to obtain the panoramic views that we desired. Surprisingly, public access to restrooms in museums, restaurants airports and transit stations required several floors of laborious stairway travel as well.

3. Time Travel Matters

Tourists in major European cities today can easily be enticed to take snappy, tour bus excursions to view famous destinations. Yet our insight reveals that much of the old continent today remains best accessible on foot along cobblestone lined streets, narrow, pedestrian alleyways, and statue lined open plazas. For instance, a casual tour of the ancient Forum walls in Rome or a morning wander through the exquisite gardens of Versailles Palace outside Paris provided invaluable insights of his historical interest . On our pub tour of Dublin, as well, patient meandering through the Temple Bar corridor or a lazy stroll along the river Liffey induced a proper feel of “Old Town” medieval Dublin.

4.Security Clearance Matters

On our city tours, Europe seemed to be on “high alert” for the threat of terrorism. The crowd control measures along physical barriers near the Roman Colosseum and the Twickenham Football stadium near London, for instance, made us more vigilant to check our surroundings as we walked. By thinking beforehand about where/when to walk safely, anticipated trouble could thus be largely avoided.

Walk today and then trod some more tomorrow has thus demonstrated our independent spirit as we savor its physical challenge in our latest European travels. We could now return on our reposition cruise back home to Fort Lauderdale with a more restful frame of mind. A warm whirlpool, a comfy hammock or an easy chair on deck sounded enticing for sure. We had certainly earned these luxuries.

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A Test Of Diversity Will Fulfilled

We must think differently, look at things in a different way. Peace requires a world of new concepts, new definitions.”
— Yitzhak Rabin

Cruise ship journeys have always been surrounded by acts of global kindness in my life. On our recent journey from Europe across the Atlantic Ocean, Ruth and I started our day routinely with the words “washy, washy”from a friendly hostess from Eastern Europe or perhaps Southeast Asia, reminding us to sanitize our hands before breakfast. Often, these brief moments with our amiable host began with an exchange of pleasant smiles followed by an informal conversation of more personal interest.

When we felt like lounging in private at the aqua spa, a dutiful pool man from India would arrange our comfy lounge chairs as needed as we bowed in Namaste prayer mode to thank him for his thoughtful efforts.Throughout the day, our hard working, cabin steward from the Philippines tuned in to our daily routine and knew exactly when and how to make our room most comfortable. As a consequence, we spent considerable time listening to her keen observations to make our cruise more enjoyable. On the last eve of the cruise we thus felt it appropriate to gift her at cruise end with one of my wife’s homemade bracelets.

While some might expect we are pampered elitists who expect to pay top dollar prices for a luxury cruise experience, that has never been the case. We affordably live in a Fort Lauderdale condominium as early retirees from teaching where casual cruising at affordable prices lies literally close by our doorstep. So our global-friendly experiences as middle class voyagers contradicts so much politically negative talk in our country today about building walls, limiting immigration, and fomenting distrust of foreigners.

Quite frankly, as white supremacy surrounding the Trump Presidency breeds xenophobic distrust today, we make extra efforts to proactively study the differences of other cultures in any place we travel. Consequently, we make behavioral adjustments to bridge language/cultural gaps as needed in unfamiliar places. For example, our experience teaching English Second Language students has taught us that in cases where a foreigner might have difficulty to understanding us, several actions can be used for fostering clearer communication: (1) speak slowly, (2) allow sufficient time to respond, (3) write down your verbal response, (4) respect body space distance and (5) observe behavioral taboos in the local custom.

Wherever we go in any form of transportation , a diligent attempt is thus made by us to tear down walls of difference and find common ground for peaceful engagement. As we enhance our cultural awareness in travel with yoga and meditation practice at home, our judgmental egos can be trained to remain silent. We thus realize that such inner peace fuels the essence of our traveling mind.

Better To Cruise With Mermaids

Cruise Observation – Why waste time looking for sharks in the blue waters ahead when a beautiful mermaid make a more enjoyable contemplation?

For many, finding a way to cope with the media spun lies, threats, and hypocrisy of the Trump Presidency can be very challenging. For this sensitive blogger, however, the stage seemed to be set on our recent tour of European transcontinental cruise back home to South Florida to reassess this menacing presence of POTUS lurking close behind. Such an eventful moment would this take place as the tranquil, island setting of Palma de Mallorca captivated my view on the outside deck at breakfast. For the first time since that fateful Presidential election, I would successfully engage in conversation with an avid Trump supporter with a clearer state of mind.

On this momentous occasion, I succeeded to connect with my chosen Trump adversary, Avery, as we initially exchanged honest impressions of our chosen careers. As she and I had both described our past careers in helping individuals in the teaching and health care and teaching fields respectively, our shared sense of empathy for the poor/underprivileged clients we had served seemed evident.Yet, when the subject turned to politics, we fiercely defended our differing voting rationales in the 2016 Presidential election.

Notably, Avery would take aim at Barack Obama as a weak President who did not deliver for all Americans what his eloquent speeches professed. Similarly portraying Hillary Clinton as the wrong choice for our nation, she would go on to defend Donald Trump’s election as the stronger choice for our country now. I noted then how she seemed “fed up” that our country had gone soft about rampant street crime, entitled welfare abuse, and ominous foreign tensions.

In my counter reply, I calmly asked Avery whether she felt today the same about Donald Trump as she did on Election Day. Sensing her tenuous yes answer, I noted how Donald Trump had built his entire election platform on a “divide and conquer” mentality that has continually devolved to bitterly disunite our country. Patiently listening to her dissatisfactions as a health care administrator, I similarly shared my inner city teaching challenges leading to teacher burnout. Setting our obvious political differences aside, our serious conversations would soon “lighten up” and thus end calmly with little fanfare.

I thus have reason to believe that if you want to get along with someone on the opposite end of the political spectrum, your chances increase dramatically if each party takes time to find “common ground for an honest relationship with each other. Being nice rather than nasty seems to also yield greater dividends then as you become willing to listen to alternative points of view. You might even imagine them under such trying circumstances agreeing  with you that “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright.”