Learn Something New Everyday!

So, Where Are You From?

Most people, if asked if they are prejudiced, will state absolutely and emphatically, “No!”  However, most of us make broad assumptions and frequently jump to conclusions.  Our habits and actions often say we may indeed be prejudiced or at least unaware and insulting in our interactions with others, especially those who are different from us.

I love the following comedy video that a friend posted on Facebook, because it shows how absurd some assumptions can be. Plus it is good for a laugh!  I have met the guy in this video too many times.  But I do love the woman and will try to remember to emulate her answer as needed out in the world.  Every little push towards awareness and understanding is a good thing!  So I applaud this little comedic play!

I hope you enjoy the video!

The actors sharing some of the comments generated by this video is pretty fun too.  Watch for a link to that video at the end of the above video.  Or go there via this link:  Comments

So, where are you from?  Me?  I’m from Chicago initially and now live in Bakersfield.  My family roots include Irish, Danish, Scottish, English, Norwegian, and German.



100_1433Earlier this month, I was driving home from a short visit to Sequoia National Park.  My visit was cut short because of storms that were brewing and closing roads.  The night before there was a downpour. Storms were blowing in from the west, and rain and snow were expected by evening.  Mountain passes further south were even expected to close with snow levels reaching 3500 feet.

But that afternoon, driving home, the clouds were absolutely gorgeous!













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 “You must not blame me if I do talk to the clouds.”  Henry David Thoreau

“Clouds suit my mood just fine.”   Marie Lu

“Thirty-nine years of my life had passed before I understood that clouds were not my enemy; that they were beautiful, and that I needed them. I suppose this, for me, marked the beginning of wisdom. Life is short.”   Iimani David  

“We pledge to fight ‘blue-sky thinking’ wherever we find it. Life would be dull if we had to look up at cloudless monotony day after day.”  Gavin Pretor-Pinney   

“I miss the simple pleasures like a friendly hello, an unexpected smile, really looking into someone’s eyes when speaking, random acts of kindness, and days doing nothing but lying on a blanket in the grass watching the clouds roll on by.”   Rita Said   

“My experiences remind me that it’s those black clouds that make the blue skies even more beautiful.”    Kelly Clarkson  

“If you want to relax, watch the clouds pass by if you’re lying on the grass, or sit in front of the creek; just doing nothing and having those still moments is what really rejuvenates the body.”   Miranda Kerr

“We can never have enough of nature.  We must be refreshed by the sight of inexhaustible vigor, vast and titanic features, the sea coast with its wrecks, the wilderness with its living and its decaying trees, the thunder cloud and the rain.”  Henry David Thoreau

“I came to a point where I needed solitude and just stop the machine of ‘thinking’ and ‘enjoying’ what they call ‘living’, I just wanted to lie in the grass and look at the clouds.”  Jack Kerouac


sequoia map

About ten days ago, a friend and I made a quick trip to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.  Our plan was to spend a couple days enjoying the trees and solitude.  It was a glorious visit even though it did not pan out exactly as expected.

100_1320For one thing, we had planned to have two days in the park, but ended up with only one.  A storm moved in and closed the roads inside the park, so although we were there we could not get anywhere.  Second, we had hoped to see some wildflowers—and we did.  There were some lupines in bloom near the entrance and alongside some country roads, but none were at a spot where it was easy to stop and take pictures.  A few other flowers punctuated the landscape as well—some California poppies and pretty yellow flowers.  And pretty pink trees popped up here and there along the route.  The orange trees we drove past—field after field—were in bloom.  The best part of that was the delightful orange blossom smell that wafted into the car as we drove by.



100_1338Finally, we figured we would enjoy some delightful spring weather.  After all, spring had officially sprung and we were on spring break.  But like I said, a storm moved in and closed the roads—and the temps were a bit chilly. In fact, snow was still all around.  But-don’t get me wrong—I am not complaining.  The weather was crisp and glorious.  The snow on the trees was impressive and made it feel like we were driving through a snow globe.  And the storm closed the roads and sent us home, but it did not rain/snow and pour on us—we even saw glorious clouds and heard rain on the roof overnight.







100_1343Overall, although cut short, this was a great trip to Sequoia National Park.  We technically entered Kings Canyon National Park but never quite made it to Grants Grove to walk among the great big trees.  So, we figure we need to go again—maybe the end of May—to enjoy the forest again.  Next time, I doubt any roads will be closed! But the trees we did see and walk among were great, making us feel the grandeur of nature as seen in these magnificent Sequoia Redwoods.







Our one-day drive through Sequoia National Park helped us remember how accurate John Muir was in his description of the big trees:  “When I entered this sublime wilderness the day was nearly done, the trees with rosy, glowing countenances seemed to be hushed and thoughtful, as if waiting in conscious religious dependence on the sun, and one naturally walked softly and awestricken among them.” 

100_1324The trees are the obvious draw of the park, but there are also glorious vistas and impressive rock formations.  We even took the 10-mile travel-at-your-own-risk-not-cleared-in-winter road out to Hume Lake.





As we ended our first day in the Parks, we decided to re-trace our steps to get to the hotel.  Our plan was to explore Kings Canyon the second day.  Instead, the road had closed behind us, and we could not get back the way we came.  Our detour took us through some farmland that included orange groves. Although not what we planned, we had a great day!



Light It Up Blue

A few years ago, I had not heard of the Light It Up Blue Campaign. 

light it up blue logo

In reality this year is the 8th annual anniversary of the Autism World Awareness Day.  Autism is one of only three health issues recognized by the United Nations.  The LIUB campaign is a way to show support for Autism Awareness by wearing blue or—better yet!—using blue lights so a whole building (for example) can shine forth as blue.  Here are some photos of cities participating in the Light It Up Blue Campaign.  All photos are taken from the Autism Speaks Blog.

Chicago, Illinois, USA

light it up blue

New York, New York, USA

light it up blue empire

Sydney, Australia

light it up blue sydney opera house

LIUB kicks off April as Autism Awareness Month.  I know a bit about autism so can say I am aware.  I know some students and family members who are on the autism spectrum, and my sister often works with children on the autism spectrum as part of her visual perception tutoring. I am also pleased to notice that characters on the autism spectrum are more often seen on television shows and in movies these days.  One of my favorite characters is the teen Max Braverman on Parenthood who has Aspergers. Specialists work with the writers and actor to ensure the character’s portrayal is realistic.  Any effort that demonstrates the humanity and creativity of anyone on the autism spectrum is a step in the right direction!

I also follow the blog Autism Speaks.  This blog publishes daily, sharing updates and information about all aspects of autism.  My favorites are the guest blogs from parents of children with autism or from teens or adults with autism sharing their own stories. One of today’s stories is enlightening.  Kristi Campbell, mother of a special needs son, shares some insights she gleaned from a survey of other parents in her article 10 Things Autism Parents Wish You Knew.”  The article offers a full explanation, but here is my abbreviated version of the list:

  1. Don’t feel awkward or weirded out around our kids.
  2. “Not all autism is the same.”
  3. That our child’s autism does not look like the autism of someone else you know does not mean our child is not autistic.
  4. Kids with autism need love and laughter just like everyone else.
  5. Autism shows itself differently with each individual.
  6. Kids with special needs are smart and creative!
  7. If our kids are making strange noises or acting out in some way, you can look—just please do not gape and judge.
  8. Don’t judge the parents when they do not discipline their special needs children for behaviors that you do not understand so often judge as inappropriate.
  9. Give parents of special needs children some empathy instead of judgment.
  10. “Please accept our kids the way that you assume we will accept yours.”

The obvious thread through this list is that each child is different, whether special needs or not.  Each child is unique, intelligent, creative, responsive, and loveable in his/her own way.  If we can each remember that, then the other details and challenges of autism can be learned, addressed and handled.

the reason I jump 2I read a book recently called The Reason I Jump: the Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism by Naoki Higashida, with an introduction by David Mitchell.  David Mitchell and his wife were intrigued by this book when they saw it in the original Japanese because it was written by a young boy with autism.  The author’s answers to a range of questions—such as the question that generated the title—gave the Mitchells insights into their own son’s behavior as a child on the autism spectrum.  Each child is different, but some of the behaviors and frustrations are shared.  Naoki Higashida’s preface sets up the whole premise for the book—to offer insight and understanding.  Here is how his preface starts:

When I was small, I didn’t even know that I was a kid with special needs. How did I find out? By other people telling me that I was different from everyone else, and that this was a problem. True enough. It was very hard for me to act like a normal person, and even now I still can’t “do” a real conversation.  I have no problem reading books aloud and singing, but as soon as I try to speak with someone, my words just vanish. Sure, sometimes I manage a few words—but even those can come out the complete opposite of what I want to say!  I can’t respond appropriately when I’m told to do something, and whenever I get nervous I run off from wherever I happen to be. So even a straightforward activity like shopping can be really challenging if I’m tackling it on my own.

“So why can’t I do these things?  During my frustrating, miserable, helpless days, I’ve started imagining what it would be like if everyone was autistic. If autism was regarded simply as a personality type, things would be so much easier and happier for us than they are now. For sure, there are bad times when we cause a lot of hassle for other people, but what we really want is to be able to look toward a brighter future. 

“Thanks to training I’ve had. . . I’ve learned a method of communication via writing. Now I can even write on the computer. Problem is, many children with autism don’t have the means to express themselves, and often even their own parents don’t have a clue what they might be thinking. So my big hope is that I can help a bit by explaining in my own way, what’s going on in the minds of people with autism. I also hope that, by reading this book, you might become a better friend of someone with autism.”

This is an interesting book.  While no two people with autism will experience the world or the challenges and frustrations of communicating with others in the exact same way, this book lets readers see how one young man with autism explains his situation.  The potential similarities—even to the basic sense that there is thought and reason and insight going on behind a quiet child’s eyes—can help give a glimpse into what it may be like to live with autism for the child, the family, the classmates and teachers, and the friends. As Naoki Higashida wishes, “Have a nice trip through our world.”   I do wonder at times given some of the language and analogies used in the book if the translation expanded some on the author’s original phrasing, but that is a challenge with any translation.  Regardless, this book is intriguing, enlightening, and well worth a read.

Today is Light It Up Blue Day, a kick off to Autism Awareness Month.  If you are wanting to learn more about the autism spectrum, consider following Autism Speaks and/or reading The Reason I Jump.  They offer some good insights into living with autism.  If you have any resources to share that will also help educate about autism, please mention them here.  This is a topic I hope to keep learning about to increase my overall understanding and to improve my interactions with those living on the spectrum.

Just Get Busy!

Well, it has officially been Spring for 10 days now, even if some areas are still feeling the cold of winter.  In Bakersfield, California, bees are enjoying the new flowers on all the bushes and trees.  I even saw a lady bug the other day.  We had a bit of rain last night, which is greatly needed, but today is sunny once again.

Even with the joy of spring weather to cheer me on, I am still rather lethargic.  I should be gearing up for travels, heck even just spring cleaning.  But I am still mired in some legal matters that are draining.  But the probate lawyer I hired is clarifying the legal demands I need to meet and will be taking over communicating with others about the matter.  So I am telling myself to “Stop It!”  To just get back on track with a fun, productive, beautiful spring.

If you too, have been in the doldrums for whatever reason, just get busy.  If you have not gotten busy on some project or another, just get busy.  If you still have to master those resolutions made a few months ago or if you tried them and have told yourself you have failed, when in reality you just need to start over again, just get busy.  Me?  I am going to start enjoying spring.  I am even taking a trek into Nature over the next several days.

I hope you will have a happy, productive, glorious spring!  Just get busy!

If you need a bit of encouragement, here’s some wise advice from Bob Newhart:


DISCLAIMER:  In no way is my posting of this video to be seen as a comment on psychology or even psychologists or psychiatrists.  Heck, some of my best friends are shrinks!  ; )

“I’m so tired.”

I’m tired.  Really tired.  Exhausted.*   Overwhelmed.

It is not just the grief over my dad’s death.  He has been gone now for a bit more than a month.  Mom has been gone for almost a year and a half.  They lived long happy lives, and they were both alert and aware until the end.  They both also went quickly and were ready to move on.  They are now together again.  And my sister and I who shared Power of Attorney for their last two years were able to make sure all their needs were met—they were well taken care of.

What has me down is more emotional or psychological than physical.  And not over Mom and Dad’s deaths, per se. Death is part of life—and most memories are a comfort.  I was named executor in their wills, so I am dealing with paperwork and delays.  We do not even have a death certificate yet!  Still, it should be an easy process to settle the “estate” because they did not really have much:  an annuity, a retirement account, social security which just stops, and a small combined checking/savings account that is actually a joint account with my sister. 

But other sisters are raising questions about secret accounts and demanding forensic analysis for the past 5-6 years—longer than we were even helping our parents with their affairs. Forensic accounting by definition anticipates fraud.  The tone and language used feel like accusations and suspicions, even when they say “we are not accusing you of anything”!  Thus, I’m meeting with a probate lawyer next week to work out what the legal requirements are.  Settling my parents’ papers should not be this hard as Mom and Dad set things up to be as easy as possible on their deaths—they even pre-paid their own funeral costs.  This whole situation is sad and disheartening—especially since all Mom and Dad wanted was a family that at least acted as if they liked and trusted each other. 

Anyway, I am very, very tired.

I hope to get back to writing my more typical posts about Nature and Star Trek and Gratitude soon.  Until then, I am seeking some distractions this weekend via some old movies and television shows.  Last week, I enjoyed Victor Victoria.  Last night when I could not sleep, I re-watched Star Trek’s “Trouble with Tribbles” and Star Trek Deep Space Nine’s “Trials and Tribble-Ations.”  This weekend I plan to watch some Mel Brooks’ movies that will give me some laughs over silly things, like To Be or Not to Be, Young Frankenstein and Blazing Saddles

I thought of watching these specific films because I love Madeline Kahn’s great rendition of “I’m Tired” in Blazing Saddles.   Just seems so fitting with how I am feeling right now.  Enjoy!

*BTW:  Being tired this weekend has nothing to do with Daylight Saving Time that starts at 2 am on Sunday.  I hate this time change!  And I wrote about it last year.

My dad, Raymond F. Ross, died almost two weeks ago.  His Memorial Service was yesterday, Saturday (15 February) at Lutheran Church of the Cross in Arcadia, CA.  It was a beautiful day, sunny, temperature in the mid-70s.  Dad—who was always cold—would have liked sitting in the sunshine.  It was a small gathering. Family, friends, church members all shared some memories and said their goodbyes.

Mom died a bit over a year ago.  It seemed especially apt that Dad passed this year in time for Dad and Mom to be together again to celebrate Valentine’s Day.  A restaurant near them always offered a free dinner and a photo to couples married more than 50 years.  Mom and Dad were married over 70 years and enjoyed surprising people over the length of their time together.  They never quite looked—or acted—their age!

MD Valentine's Day

Mom & Dad Valentine's Day 2000

Now that they are both gone, I like thinking of them once again being together for birthdays and holidays, adding more years to their lives together.  I do miss them!

My main tribute to Dad at the Service was this PowerPoint Slide Show that showcases his life and family.  It is comparable to one I prepared about Mom at her passing.  Sharing the photos, the memories, somehow makes this time of sorrow a bit easier.

I do feel lucky that I saw Dad a few days before he died.  It was a typical visit, and we parted saying, “I love you” and sharing a hug and a kiss.  Thank goodness!  Please tell your loved ones how much you love them and show them by giving them your time and attention.  You never know when they could be gone.

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