Monday, December 17, 2012

2012 in Retrospect

John and Barbara's  2012

First Grandchild Maya, London East End, Christmas in Colorado, Thanksgiving in Tucson, a new battery for John, and a new knee for Barbara.  Add in work, bridge, cooking,  jewelry-making, and side trips, and it was again a full year.

We started 12 months ago with a 2011 family Christmas in Estes Park.  Karen, Brian, Matt, and Rachael flew in early, and there was a short appearance by Anne and RC.   The weather cooperated with a beautiful snowfall, providing the opportunity for some to snowshoe the Emerald Lake trail in Rocky Mountain National Park on a bright sunny day (common) without wind (not so common.)  The usual wildlife was accented by watching a bobcat nap right under Karen's bedroom window, so close you could touch it but for the glass!

In the spring of 2010 Barbara had bought (at a great price) a week in a London Condo through a silent auction in Palm Desert, but we could not get the time free until January.  We were a little concerned about doing this in the winter, but from experience knew the weather could not be too terrible.  The good thing about flying to Europe in winter is that we managed to get tickets with frequent flyer miles.  To simplify things and spare Barbara's arthritic knee, I arranged for a driver to meet us at Heathrow and take us directly to Ipswich in East Anglia where Barbara was going to start some genealogy research.  He dropped us at the Ipswich genealogy center for the afternoon returned later that evening to take us on to our Hotel in Lowestoff on the East Anglia coast, where Barbara planned additional genealogy research. As it turns out, David, our driver was from one of the small towns from which Barbara's ancestors immigrated, and his mother was also a Dickerson; so he and Barbara were almost certainly related. Small world!  Before taking the train to London, we had a wonderful evening with some of our daughter in law's English uncle and grandmother. (Here is the post for that trip.)

The flat we had for the week was in East London, and even though we had lived in England for three years and have visited London numerous times since, this was a whole new part of the city for us to explore.  The “East End” is historically, socially, economically, and culturally complex.  Over 100 languages and dialects are spoken in this area. Our condominium was close to the large East London Mosque, as well as next to an historic Jewish synagogue.  Barbara, of course, found a theme to guide our explorations - Jack the Ripper.  We explored alleys where murders occurred, pubs that were inns occupied by prostitutes and victims of the times, and the Spitafield church where prostitutes were offered shelter in its basement.  There were only a few typical English pubs remaining in this area, but restaurants serving foods of Turkey, Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa, and Eastern Europe were numerous . . . and delicious!

Clive Moore, a dear friend we first met almost 40 years ago in England, made a trip into the city, allowing us to have a wonderful day with him.  We were also hosted by an online physician friend of John's,  Anthony and Christine Campbell, for a most enjoyable dinner. ( Anthony's blog - )  Brian Bruns, a young man who spent much time in our house as a friend of our children in high school and who is sort of a second son to us was in London to receive a literary prize, so he took the spare bedroom of our condo and spent 3 days with us.  It was on this trip that Barbara realized that she had finally become limited in travel by her arthritic right knee, and it was time to do something about it beyond the injections which had provided only temporary relief.  More details and some pictures of this trip are available in John's blog ( ). 

In February and March we returned again to our RV Park in Palm Springs, with John commuting to work in Iowa. Local trips included a drive to San Diego so we could spend some time with Barbara's brother Martin, who had come down from Alaska. On our return to Iowa, we stayed two weeks in Tucson at Catalina State Park.

We returned briefly to Phoenix in May for Anne's graduation from Mesa community college (she is now finishing her bachelor's degree at Northern Arizona University,) and in June made a fun weekend run to Joliet and Chicago. John also had a new pacer battery pac installed.  The first one only lasted 7 years, but after its first check, the new one says it will last 12 years. While Barbara started preparations for her knee replacement on August 7, John flew to Portland, for a short but wonderful visit with Matt and Rachael during Fleet Week and the Rose Festival.

In early August, Karen flew out from Tucson and kept Barbara distracted for several days prior to surgery, and flew home two days after surgery. After that, Anne and Dana Fritz separately came to Cedar Rapids assisting Barbara's recovery.  (John did a few weeks of laundry, cooking, and personal assisting as well.)  The rehabilitation for knee surgery is a long and arduous process and continues even today, but she has worked diligently and is doing very very well.  We also had wonderful visits from cousin John and Donnice Cochenour from Ft. Collins Colorado, and from Rod and Char Mann, friends that date back to Air Force days in San Antonio in 1978.  In October, as Barbara continued her convalesence, John drove to Estes Park for a week to check on things and visit with friends.

This November, we rented a house for three weeks in north Tucson and hosted a  family Thanksgiving reunion.  Matt and Rachael flew down from Portland, and Anne and RC drove down from Chandler.  Our first grandchild (adopted) was born on October 23, and went home with Karen and Brian on October 24, Karen's birthday.  Adding to the festivities, Brian Bruns drove down from Las Vegas for a few days. On Thanksgiving Day, our family joined Ron and Judy Longenbaugh and a number of their family members for a big Thanksgiving feast at their house; it was a lot of fun.

John is working through Christmas and New Year's holidays this year, it's his turn, so we will take the opportunity to hole up in our nice warm condo and scheme for the coming year.

Our best wished for each and everyone of you this year; we keep you close in our hearts.

John & Barbara

Saturday, December 15, 2012

On the Conneticut School Shootings

On the conservative American Family Radio, Brian Fischer blamed the lack of prayer in public schools for the tragic shooting “And I think God would say to us, ‘Hey I’ll be glad to protect your children, but you’ve gotta invite me back into your world first. I’m not gonna go where I’m not wanted.’”

Also, Arkansas governor and presidential candidate Mike Huckabee opined on FOX News “We ask why there is violence in our schools, but we have systematically removed God from our schools," . “Should we be so surprised that schools would become a place of carnage?”

Are they suggesting that God "allows" the slaughter of school children just because they don't pray to him/her in the classroom? This threatening, fearsome deity full of hate and retribution to which they refer is the god of the religious right, but not my god, and I suspect not the god of many Christians.  It seems logical that (paraphrasing Epicurus) if God could have stopped this and didn't, then he/she is a malevolent, vindictive, petty god, and certainly does not deserve my worship.  If  unable to stop it, then he/she is certainly not omnipotent.  In either case, why call him/her God?

As for returning "God" to the classroom, which god should be returned?  The Catholic god?  The (non-Christian) Jewish god?  Allah?  The pantheon of countless Hindu gods and goddesses (after all, Hinduism is the worlds 3rd largest religion)? Buddha (actually a philosophy)?  Wodan/Odin?  Or perhaps the god of Religious Humanism?  Our country's founders were careful to keep affairs of state independent of religion; they had seen the evils perpetrated by the alignment of kings and clerics, as well as the suffering by members of religious minorities in the presence of state-sanctioned majorities.  Tolerance and inclusion become exclusion and conversion.  Look what happened to native American religions in the 19th century when we put their children in schools where their native beliefs were severely suppressed and replaced with Catholic or Protestant indoctrinations.

Yes, we have some bad people perpetrating tragedies in this country and in the rest of world, but edging towards a state-sanctioned religion and eventual theocracy would bring more strife and death; just look at conflicts around the world where religion is tied to governance: Muslim-Jewish, Sunni-Shia, Christian-Muslim, Hindu-Muslim, Buddhist-Hindu, etc, etc.  This is not the time to seek governmental endorsement of any particular faith/religion.  We should remain a pluralistic, multi-religious (and non-religious) society wherein every citizen can maintain his/her own religious belief with the protection, but without the endorsement, of our government.