Cofrin Park

Cofrin Park
Cofrin Nature Park

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Homemade Kefir Water

Greg the goat-herder at the farmers market gave my a cup of water kefir grains, so I had to give water-kefir-making a try. Why? Because water kefir is easy to make and supposedly good for you. The probiotics in the kefir benefit your gut. Also, I wanted to drink a tasty, fizzy beverage that did not come in a can.

My first batch of kefir water turned out surprisingly well, although it did not look like much in my water bottle containers and mason jar. I experimented with adding flavors to the second fermentation: fresh ginger, wild frozen blueberries, frozen pineapple.

How did it taste? The pleasant taste reminded me of a mild apple cider with a slight effervescence. I only let the first batch ferment for 2 days, so it still had some residual sugar that added a bit of sweetness.

My second batch of kefir water turned out fantastically delicious! I let the first ferment go a day longer, for 3 days, which allowed the magical grains to consume mostly all the sugar.

Here's what the process entailed:

 Day one looked like a vat of diarrhea:

But then, the kefir grains propagated and began to fill up the bottom of the container. As the grains "ate" the sugar, made kefir babies and produced carbon dioxide, the water turned a golden apple cider color.

I strained the grains and bottled the water kefir, added fresh ginger chunks to all the bottles and berries and pineapple to separate bottles. I let the bottles ferment for one day and then refrigerated.


Day One
In a large plastic container pour 1 gallon spring water (chlorinated water will kill the grains, so do not use tap water.)
Stir in 1 cup raw brown sugar. I used Sucanat. White sugar works too, but honey, because of its antimicrobial properties, may very well kill off the grains, or at least inhibit their growth.
Drop in a cleaned, organic egg shell and a pinch of sea salt (kefir grains love a mineral environment.)
Add about 1 cup kefir grains.
Cover container with lid and let sit out on counter-top for 24 hours.

Day Two
Visit the container and look for activity.
I noticed more grains than day one--a good sign that the little buggers were having fun.

Day Three
Either ferment for another day (four days total,) or bottle the brew, depending upon how sweet you want the water.
Discard the egg shell, strain out the grains and store them in a container with a little sugar water in the fridge until you need them for another batch.

I used a funnel to pour the brew into plastic water bottles (and one mason.) I added the flavorings and let sit on the counter top for 27 hours and then refrigerated my newly fermented kefir water.  Burp the containers every 8 to 12 hours or so to let the carbon dioxide escape or the bottles may explode.


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Down the Internet Rabbit Hole I Went, and I struck Einkorn!

Doesn't Internet research drive you crazy? Your little mind is chock full of questions, and you want answers to those questions, and so you think "oh, I'll just look that up on the Internet, real quick, and I'll have my answers!" And down the Internet rabbit hole you go; never to be seen or heard from again, because you have entered the twilight zone of information inundation. The Internet pixies have taken you hostage and aim to gobble up your sanity.

Pick a question, any question, and query the World Wide Web, panacea of information good and evil. It'll just take a minute (of the infinite variety.) For example, for Thanksgiving, I wanted to make stuffing that is tasty and sort of good for you. So I trotted off the the health food store, spent about twenty bucks, and baked up a new gluten-free, sourdough buckwheat bread recipe (instead of following the one on this blog that actually worked.) However, I wanted it to be 100% organic, and the gluten free bread mixes are not organic. I made my own  gluten free flour blend with organic ingredients. It was a complete disaster: rock hard crust and spongy crumb (but the taste was okay.) That does it! I'm going back to wheat! Maybe sprouted ancient grains would be healthier. I saw sprouted spelt flour at Wards Supermarket, and I'm gettin' it!

But first, a little research on the Internet to satisfy my curiosity: "I wonder how many chromosomes spelt grain has compared to regular wheat? (Six sets of chromosomes.) ( Is spelt hybridized? (It is.) How does it compare to the first wheat berry, Einkorn? (Einkorn has two sets of chromosomes.) Is wheat really the enemy? (Einkorn wheat even got a somewhat favorable review from the Wheat Belly dude, Dr. William Davis, when he ate it once. He even thanked Elisheva Rogosa of Heritage Wheat Foundation for providing him with the Einkorn wheat product he tried.) Maybe I should try it too. I must find out more, more and more information on this important subject and all those ancillary subjects that pop up with it!

Over two hours of blogs, books, Wikipedia and the Westin A. Price Foundation and I got a few answers: for example, gluten intolerance is not just about the chromosome count in wheat, it's about the different types of proteins...oh boy. Of course such detailed research led to an explosion of new questions like "maybe the nightshades are causing my osteoarthritis and pain?"  I'm doomed.

Finally, I came to my senses just long enough to escape the Internet rabbit hole. I made the monumental decision to buy Einkorn flour. (Oh-oh, does this mean another foodie experiment?) Yes! I plan to make a levain and turn that into a bread using only Einkorn flour, water, sea salt and a few pinches of yeast.

After almost three years completely gluten-free, eating wheat again may prove a delicate dietary venture. But I must personally evaluate all that Internet research and thus will consume the info before it consumes me.

So off to the test kitchen I go--my truly favorite rabbit hole.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Challenge Your Beliefs

What do you believe? Does it really matter? After all, beliefs are just a feeling of certainty about what something means, right? Beliefs, however, can be powerful little devils that may either support your way of being in the world and your quality of life, or harm it. So it’s a good idea to periodically scrutinize your beliefs and determine whether they should stay or go.

Types of Beliefs:
1) Core beliefs that have been with you since you can remember. Core beliefs have adhered themselves to your psyche. They have a significant impact on your quality of life. Core beliefs shape your values. They comprise your reality. Core beliefs include what you believe about yourself, as well as your general or global beliefs about the world and people;
2) New beliefs crop up as you experience new things. You play around with new beliefs for awhile before deciding whether they either support or tear down your current beliefs. Solidifying new beliefs generally happens subconsciously—something an alert, present and happy person should avoid.

The point is to bring awareness to what input you accept and what beliefs you choose to adopt, in order to increase your spiritual growth and your appreciation of daily life.

I Believe…
Where did your core beliefs originate? Were you born with them? Let’s hope not. Your core beliefs took root in childhood and developed through the feedback you got from those you encountered, especially: parents, relatives, teachers, school, church and friends. In other words, your beliefs manifested from your environment. Such a supposition grants validity to the old adage, you are who your friends are. That’s why your mother told you to choose your friends carefully!

Luckily, you are not stuck with your beliefs for life. It may seem like they are just part of you, like your genetic makeup, but they are not. You have the power to change your beliefs as you see fit.

Challenging a General Belief that Genes Control Life
Because I am completely unqualified to tackle scientific stuff, I thought it would be interesting to use a scientific example.

Take this example that:  genes manage our physical makeup, control proclivities for disease or health, and thus direct our destiny. Left unquestioned, we tend to believe that the gene-control theory is “the truth.” But the assertion that genes control life is false, according to Bruce Lipton, former medical school professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Stanford University and author of The Biology of Belief, Unleashing the Power of Consciousness, Matter and Miracles.

In his book, Lipton says that our environment, not our genes, control cells and by extrapolation, life. Our cells turn out to be rather smart and can teach us how to live, according to Lipton. (The Biology of Belief p.153)

Cell Biology and Quantum Physics Unite and Spawn “Epigenetics”
How environmental signals select, modify and regulate gene activity is called “epigenetics.”“ Lipton describes genes as merely molecular blueprints used for constructing cells, tissues and organs. Physical and energetic environments control a cell’s life, states Lipton. “It is a single cells “awareness” of the environment that primarily sets into motion the mechanisms of life.” The implication: as a single cell goes, so goes the 50 trillion cells that make up a human being, i.e. “the character of our lives is determined not by our genes but by our responses to the environmental signals that propel life.” (The Biology of Belief, Prologue.)

What’s the Point?
Since thoughts, beliefs and matter (our bodies) are all forms of energy, then they all must work in concert to run this private little show called being an individual human. Since our cells adapt and change of their own accord in response to environmental influences, so too, must we adapt and change our beliefs to reflect the environment we wish to inhabit and control.

Now take a turn with your beliefs. Pick one and hold it up to the light. Do you believe it when you see it; or do you see it when you believe it?  (Dr. Wayne Dyer aphorism.)

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Relationship Exercise: Write Your Partner a Recommendation

(Editor's note: Monday morning I found out that someone (George) actually reads my blog! Yikes. He balled me out for my erratic posting schedule. I feebly defended myself with the perfectionism excuse; and I had dozens more I swallowed. He didn't buy it, and reminded me that pursuing perfection does not get the job done.  I got it, Monsieur George Voltaire perfect is the enemy of good.  So, I shall post imperfect writings ASAP and lay the blame for the drivel upon George's strong shoulders. He gave me permission. Thanks, George!)


One day soon, off you go into the sunset for good, so might as well make a few preparations, especially concerning your mate. For example, a fun exercise might include writing your mate a recommendation, addressed to their next prospective mate, for their use (preferably) after you’re gone. With your written recommendation in hand they won’t have the pressure of having to “sell themselves.” They can hand the prospect your recommendation, and let nature take its course.  Even better, this exercise showcases your gratitude and celebrates your relationship.

I’ve asked my mate to participate by writing me a recommendation; “It’s for my blog!” He views any writing assignment as an epic imposition, but pacified me by saying he’d do it. “Come on, Gene, how long can it take you to write one measly sentence?”

Needless to say I wrote my recommendation first, which is apropos because I feel that I might be the one to go first, even though my dearest is older than I. He’s in better spirits, and my white blood count is below normal, so he should last longer. But I don’t want to go first, because I worry about Gene sitting there alone, sad and crying, or worse, zoning out in front of the computer, cut off from people and new love. However I don’t want him to go first, because I just can’t imagine it. He’s my heart. Damn.

Here it is: Recommendation for Gene as prime relationship material:

Gene’s a sweetheart, but he started out as a fixer-upper. I know this sounds less than a rousing recommendation, but it’s true; as he has admitted many times. Fortunately, Gene embraced change (well not right off, but eventually.) He realized that the changes in diet, personal habits, and virtually anything else I could think of, was good for him, and made me happy. And that’s Gene’s paramount quality: he truly wants me to be happy and works to make that happen through his direct efforts. And those efforts usually give me a hoot.

When I first met him, he was surrounded by mostly women. Gene genuinely loves women and it shows. Women are drawn to him because they feel his positive reception and kindness. He’s also a “man’s man” when he wants to be. I think his being an only child made him self-reliant and helped develop his charisma. He’s just one of those folks who are fun to be around and make you feel good.

Gene is generous.  He gave me a soft place to fall when I experienced the lowest point in my life. He allowed me to grieve and do nothing, until I decided to do something and got on the path to self-improvement—Gene happily in tow.

Gene listens to ME. Well, not really, but he pretends to listen to me, unless I call him on it, and then he fesses up and promises to listen. He instructs me on the best times for discussing serious sh*t. And then, he listens and offers valuable advice, because he’s very smart. (I nicknamed him Genius.) We even discuss politics, despite differing views, without a knockout punch. I find him endlessly fascinating and would rather watch him sit there, than watch TV. He loves to entertain me that way.

Excellent dancer, best kisser, hugger and selfless lover in the world —with Gene, it’ll be all about you, babe.

Once Gene learns the rules, of which he probably thinks are many, he follows them like a soldier. This military trait makes him even more endearing.

Gene want to get things right. Accordingly, he asks the usual dumb-dude questions. When I pointed this fact out to him, he disagreed and requested an example, so I gave him one: “You know the other morning, when I forgot to put your lunch in the fridge door for you?”
“I walked into the kitchen. I opened the freezer door as you stood right in front of it. I pulled out your frozen solid lunch container and handed it to you. You asked, ‘is it frozen?’ No dear, the frozen goods are kept in the oven. See what I mean?”
“Gene, you’re just like Miles Kendig, in Hopscotch:” The telling scene: Kendig (Walter Matthau) visits Isobel (Glenda Jackson) at her Austrian estate. As she prepares lunch, Kendig is standing in front of the fridge and asks, “Where do you keep the beer, please?”
“Middle shelf.”
Kendig retrieves a beer, faces the table and says, “Where’s the opener?”
“On the tray, in front of you.” 
“Where are the glasses?”
“On the TABLE in front of you!”

Gene will likely ask more kooky questions, but better that than risking total screw up.

When beautiful young girls walk past us, I say “wow, lovely.” He says “Yes, they’re young and attractive, but not as beautiful as you! YOU are the love of my life! They don’t do anything for me.” He’s good at bucking up the female ego and stilling its fears.

Of course, things can turn ugly at times; and Gene has a solution. He retreats into his cave and does not come out until the coast is clear. This tactic avoids much unnecessary arguing, that we’d likely forget the next day. He waits patiently until I apologize. Then he acts baffled and tells me I have no reason to apologize and that I’m the greatest woman in the world. He tells me how much he values all I do, and says “We’re a team. We take care of each other. You saved my life.” My heart melts. What a gem. 

Gene has taken over vacuum detail, because he knows I cannot vacuum without dreadful physical and emotional consequences, despite the fact he also has a bad back.

He mostly does his own laundry.

He takes out the trash with sporadic complaint, but quickly apologizes for it.

He sometimes helps with the dishes and food prep. On the home front, he’s an angel!

It’s impossible to describe the mystical qualities of your true love, but I’ve given a few examples of why Gene merits a new beloved.

ENTER GENE:  Gene’s Recommendation for Ann
Ann is an excellent judge of character, so I must assume you are reading this because you two have become close and are beginning to explore each other’s deeper emotions, feelings and quirks.

Here are some reasons I recommend Ann to a future partner:  

Ann has all the qualities that I find most endearing in a mate.  She works with me, not against me.  Occasionally we have our disagreements, but always seem to be working toward the same outcome. Our discussions remain flexible and open. 

Ann is stubborn when necessary. She does not back off easily, yet she intuitively recognizes when to stop. 

Ann is clean to a fault and will not put up with sloppiness.

She is the only female I know that hates to shop for clothes, but can spend hours in grocery and health-food stores and at farmer’s markets. The upside: she’s an excellent chef and we eat very well. The downside: she does not like to go out for meals because her cooking cannot be beat and she has nothing to wear. 

Ann has her aches and pains like anyone who has lived an active life. Sometimes that gets her down.  It makes it hard for her to always do her best.  I have found a little encouragement and understanding will go a long way. I never forget that she is loyal and sincerely wants to please her partner even when she is hurting. Her family comes first.

Although we met at a difficult time in both our lives, we discovered common ground and that generated a profound appreciation for each other. Ann strives to get past the fa├žade in order to understand what she and her partner are really all about. She seeks the truth and brings that out in her partner as well as herself. She has an intense desire to really know and understand her partner in order to bring all she has to the relationship.

And, the best part of all, she knows how to love and be loved.  Most people know one or the other but Ann is that rare person that knows both.  A loving relationship is one that goes both ways and is respected and honored by both parties.  You will find that if you give love and respect to Ann, she will give it back 10 times over.  Ann has taught me the true meaning of a soul mate. 

Friday, July 24, 2015

Oven Roasted Boneless Pork Loin Recipe

I know it's triple digits outside, so not ideal conditions for a pork roast. However, I have air conditioning. So on with the roast. Since we do not have a grill, this pork roast satisfies the summer-palette's need for meat on the grill, and then some. I started with an excellent pork loin from Full Circle Farms.
The marinade makes this roast tender, juicy and delicious!  Grill? Grill? We don't need no stinkin' grill!

1 3-4 pound organic pork loin, cut in half
Marinade (recipe below)
2 onions
12 garlic cloves
2 carrots
2 ribs celery or bok choy
1/2 pound fresh mushrooms
2 thumb sized fresh ginger root
oil for pan

2 cups dry red wine (Cabernet)
1/4 cup dark sesame oil
4-6 large garlic cloves minced with a micro blade
1 thumb sized fresh ginger root minced with a micro blade
1 Tablespoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
4 Tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
3 Tablespoons organic Balsamic vinegar
1 Tablespoon raw honey
salt if desired (the soy sauce adds saltiness, so I used about 1/4 teaspoon of "Real" salt.)

Place pork loin with marinade in large ziplock bag. Get out all the air. Place in bowl in the fridge for about 7 hours.

After the pork has marinated, then PREHEAT oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
 Large-dice the vegetables and place in an oiled cast-iron dutch oven. Roast the veggies in the oven for about 15 minutes, then remove the pan from the oven.

While the veggies cook:

Remove pork loins from bag and blot with paper towel. Reserve the marinade.
Brown the pork loins in nonstick pan over medium high heat ( about 10 minutes.)
Place browned pork loins in the dutch oven along with the reserved marinade and the veggies. Cover the meat with some of the veggies and marinade. Do not cover the pan. Return the pan to the oven. Roast for about 8 to 10 minutes.

Then reduce the temperature to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and roast for another 20 to 30 minutes. Turn the roast over in the pan and redistribute some of the veggies over the top of the meat, and roast until done (about another 45  to 60 minutes.)  You could also use a meat thermometer and remove roast when it registers for the pork setting.

Remove the pan from the oven. Remove the pork from the pan onto a platter and cover with foil to rest for about 20 minutes before carving. 

Serve with mashed potatoes or rice, roasted veggies and the sauce produced by the cooking process. Enjoy!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Bold Breakfast Smoothie

I have made smoothies and carbonated juice drinks since High School, before they became popular. I have since graduated to bizarre concoctions as a meal replacement, like breakfast. Just made up the following recipe this morning. It tasted so great, thought I'd share here. It's very filling, satisfying and delicious!



2-3 large handfuls fresh organic spinach
2-3 heaping Tablespoons organic raw, unsalted sesame butter
1 teaspoon organic ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon organic ground turmeric
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
1 pinch Real salt (or sea salt)
1 large, organic egg
2 teaspoons organic virgin coconut oil
1/4 cup canned, organic coconut milk
1 or 2 Dates, depending on how sweet you want it
3 slices frozen banana
3/4 cup frozen wild blueberries
Water (just enough to blend, about 1/3 cup)


Place all ingredients in a container and blend with an immersion blender until smooth and creamy.
This should also work in a regular blender too.

This will keep you going until lunchtime. Enjoy!

Sunday, May 31, 2015


Chuck Miller rides again. Sight impaired, yes. Courage impaired, no.

I just edited my friend Chuck's notes that he kept to chronicle his latest tandem bike ride adventure. This ride benefited families of fallen police officers in North Carolina. 

It took me nearly 4 hours of uninterrupted editing (because I'm extremely slow and a perfectionist about editing another person's writing.) Chuck's inspiring story of courage and determination, however, merited the work. Enjoy!

My May 2015 bike ride from Charlotte, North Carolina to Washington D.C.

May 8, 2015, 6:30am: Gainesville Regional Airport, Delta Airlines gate. First stop: Atlanta Georgia.
I had not been assigned a seat in Gainesville, so I proceeded to ask the gate attendant for a seat assignment.
“I know who you are.” I heard a woman’s voice say.
“I’m sure I’ve never met you,” I responded.
She persisted. “Yes, I saw you on just the other day.”
I was speechless.  The gate attendant commented that she considered me a celebrity, and insisted I travel first class.  She escorted me onto the plane and introduced me to the flight attendant.  Unaccustomed to VIP status, I discreetly enjoyed my first time in first class.

Upon deplaning in Charlotte, my tandem bike pilot and friend, Richard Robinson, met me and we set out to ready Richard’s bike, the “co-motion,” for the trip. Fernando, Richard’s relative, loaded the bike into his van for transport to Mecklenburg Police Department, the starting point.  Then off to the dinner of champions: pizza and beer.

Day One: 94-Mile-Ride, Saturday May 9, 2015
Fernando dropped us at the Mecklenburg P.D. to begin the ride. A local TV station was on the scene. The reporter interviewed Richard and I; as we were both the first tandem bike riders, and I the first blind rider, to participate in the ride. The broadcast piece was entitled: “Blind Guy Rides to D.C. with the Police Department to Raise Money for Fallen Police Officer Families.” 

The ride would start an hour late, so I squelched my rising adrenaline until finally the police escorted us out of town. I felt freedom ring as our escorts blared their sirens—which mercifully unleashed my patient adrenaline. I love adrenaline.
Richard and I completed only 50.7 miles on day one, due to Tropical Wave Ana that had come ashore. The storm pounded us with 35-mile-an-hour winds. Headwinds combined with the rolling hills of North Carolina knocked us out for the day. We gratefully accepted a ride with Charlotte police officer Tyler and his wife in one of the police vans. Tyler had just completed his “Pursuit Training Certification” a few days earlier and was anxious to show off his new abilities. Who knew that a bike ride honoring the police department came with a terror-filled, car-chase-like scene from a movie? While my fingernails dug into the car-seat and anything else I could grab onto, my buddy Richard slept the entire time.  

Thankfully we arrived at our overnight spot in one piece and I vowed to never ride with Tyler again.  Beer never tasted so good. My over-worked adrenals loved their chance to restore themselves as I slept like a dog, a cat and maybe even a baby.
Day Two: 120-Mile-Ride, Sunday May 10, 2015, Mother’s Day
A windy, rainy day and miles of slippery road ahead that took us to Climax, a tiny North Carolina town. We did not feel it.

At mile 54.8, the bike tire blew out.  Richard insisted that it was my fault because the flat occurred on the back of the bike. Naturally, I disagreed.  Day two, and done. 
We waited for a volunteer to rescue us.  I prayed for anyone but Tyler. Prayers answered. Paul, a seasoned, 5-year volunteer, who also works civilian duties at the police department, pulled up in a Penske truck. Paul drove us the rest of the day to our next overnight spot. We franticly searched for new bike tires, in a town that had none. We ordered replacement tires, however they would not arrive until the afternoon of Day Three.

Enter, our (sneaky) savior, Chris Winkee, a national cycling champion riding with the police. Chris and crew concocted a plan that would allow us to ride the morning of Day Three. The details escape me, but I think it had something to do with moving tires around on unsuspecting riders’ bikes, leaving those riders with smaller tires. All is fair in love and riding?
Day Three: 130-Mile-Ride, May 11, 2015
Time to SAG. In cycling, SAG stands for “support and gear.” SAG stations and SAG cars offer help to bike riders in need of help with their bike or their person. Paul was our SAG driver and he chauffeured us for part of day three, so that we only had to ride the last 65.5 miles into Richmond Virginia for our overnight stay. (My prayer still works: No Terrifying Tyler in sight.) 

Back on the bike, our ride to Richmond took us through Spotsylvania, where we met the police who honored riders with an escort into scenic Richmond.  We crossed the James River and passed the Civil War Memorial. Statues of war heroes lined the median.  I smelled flowers and trees in full bloom which triggered my allergies and caused my eyes to water. Hundreds of bystanders cheered us on, as tears stained my cheeks. The cobblestone streets, not often found on biking trails, jarred me into deep gratitude and joy.   The lovely hotel where we stayed gifted us with food and BEER. Thank you—my adrenaline and allergies really needed beer.
Day Four: 152-Mile-Ride, May 12, 2015
Richard stated that we would SAG the first 70 miles to ensure that we could do the last leg of the journey into D.C.  The last 31 miles of the ride included a D.C. police escort, guaranteed to stir emotion, and we didn't want to miss it. 

After lunch we took off first to get a head start.  For 90 minutes Richard and I outpaced the pack for 40 miles, passing one rest stop by mistake.  Five miles past the rest stop several riders caught up with us to let us know we had passed it.  We decided to press on and offered to let the other riders draft off of us.  Drafting refers to being pulled in the wake of another bike.  A tandem offers a great draft.  Once we arrived at the next stop the riders told us they would have never made it without our help. 

As we rode into D.C., cheering crowds greeted us. Richard and I pulled ahead of the group. While dodging dangerous potholes, a motorcycle cop pulled us over, which escalated the stress I already felt riding on a substandard roadway. He said we were going too fast and that if we got out in front of the group again he would ticket us.  Guess he’s not a fan of group rides. A little ditty began to play in my head, “every party has a pooper…”

We arrived at the hotel with fanfare and congratulations. My allergies became overwhelmed again. I need a tissue…Bikes stored, tears showered and pressed, we danced off to dinner (and perhaps a beer.) 

Day Five: Free Day, May 13, 2015
What to do in Washington, D.C.?  How about a tour of the White House and the U.S. Capitol?  Capital idea. We left the hotel at 6:30am and walked to the White House.  After going through the security checks we made it into the basement. A secret service agent approached me and told me that they offered a special mini tour for people with blindness. He asked Richard and me to follow him. 
As we walked, I touched the wall that had been burned during the British siege of 1812.  I hope this wall doesn’t trigger my allergies. A few steps later, we nearly bumped into President Obama’s oldest daughter Malia, who was helping with the main tour. 

Our private tour led to the kitchen where we exchanged greetings with the chef as he prepared the noon meal for the Obamas.  We entered the president’s private dining room and I touched the president’s chair. I know what you’re thinking—I should have sat in the president’s chair! 
Finally the agent took us over to the walls of each room that were covered with material from different countries. He allowed me to touch them.  By touching those walls, each with a different material, I could determine what room I was in. 

Following the White House tour, we walked to the capitol, toured it, and then walked to Union Station for lunch.  Finally we walked to the war memorials and ended up at the Lincoln Memorial.  Resting a few minutes we walked back to the hotel.  Recommendation: after riding over 250 miles in 4 days, one should not walk 10 miles the very next day for recovery.
That night we attended the Fallen Police Memorial service candlelight vigil in Judiciary Square. Police officers from all over the country showed up to pay their respects. I noticed a lot of allergy sufferers in the crowd, me included.

Day Six: HOMEWARD BOUND, May 14, 2015
We loaded onto the bus bound for Charlotte with the exuberance and sadness of kids leaving a fantastic summer camp experience. The bus broke down about 25 miles outside of Charlotte. A replacement bus arrived one hour later and we were back on the road to reality.

May 16, 2015: Back in my own bunk.
Adrenaline now calmed, but allergies, once again, keep my awake, yet full of gratitude for my adventure and the people who helped me to realize it.
I owe y'all another beer!

(EDITOR'S NOTE:  I did not take the photos. Will credit the photographer when I get the info.)

Wednesday, April 15, 2015


How about a little dose of inspiration through the eyes of a blind man? Some people got it goin' on, and my buddy, Chuck Miller, is one of them. I have worked out with Chuck, acted as his driver and his girl Friday, shared many meals together and generally cheered him on during his quest to live life to the max.

Chuck, whom I've featured several times on my blog, has done it again. I asked him for his autograph this morning, since he showed up on a Fox News feature story yesterday. I needled him about keeping it a secret. But he scoffed; "I didn't do it for the recognition. I did it to help other people."

Now that the secret is out, he has asked me to feature his interview with Fox News on my blog. It's entitled "Blind Army Veteran is full time adventurer thanks to VA.

What's the intrepid Chuck up to now (besides shredding 100 some pounds?) Follow the link to the story and watch him discuss what it's like to engage in athletics through Adaptive Sports, while blind.

He says he may try surfing next. Now that's inspiring!

Friday, March 27, 2015


“Money makes the world go around... A mark, a yen, a buck or a pound…it makes the world go ‘round!(From the musical CABARET.)

Wouldn’t it be lov-er-ly to be rich (but not necessarily famous?) YES. But how do you travel to the financial mountain top and stake your claim, when the mountain is craggy, steep and you have no gear and no helicopter or the like? Tony Robbins, in his new 616 page book, MONEY Master the Game: 7 Simple Steps to Financial Freedom, wants to help you answer that query.

But first, some editorial housekeeping…
MONEY MASTER THE GAME 7 Simple Steps to Financial Freedom should be entitled YOUR MONEY, Plant the Seeds and Let them Grow, or something similar, because the book is mainly about investing for the masses who work at jobs outside the financial industry. It is not a wealth creation book whereby the reader can learn income producing strategies outside the stock market.

In an interview with Brendon Burchard, Tony Robbins characterized his book: “This is a lifestyle book as well as how do you create wealth and abundance for the long term.” Sounds like an identity crisis from the get-go—Tony’s book sets an admirable goal that tries to be all things to all people—which may detract from the main idea.
I learned that good writing utilizes exclamation points very sparingly, so am surprised that both Tony Robbins and Richard Branson excessively use exclamation points in their recent books. Tony defends his writing style saying it’s not a mistake, but a “technique designed to mark out key ideas and to build knowledge into your mind, body, and spirit so that action becomes automatic.” (p.43) Instead of absorbing the points, however, I focused on the irritating writing style.
 “Repetition is the mother of skill,” as Tony often says, and I agree. However, constant repetition works poorly in book form—it’s exasperating and makes the reader want to skip through the book. Chapter end summaries work well—no need to sprinkle the book with redundancies. The book should have been half the size.
MONEY MASTER THE GAME: 7 Simple Steps to Financial Freedom presupposes that the reader has a fairly regular paycheck or small business income, and hopefully little or no debt hindering the ability to save and invest. The ideal reader: someone just beginning their career. The message: start investing and reinvesting early in order to take advantage of compound interest.  Compounding appears slow and boring in the beginning, but once it gets going, exciting things happen like exponential growth.

Critics scorn Tony for straying from his lifestyle coaching work in order to write about investing your money. I disagree: given Tony’s access to leaders of the financial world, and his obsession with figuring out what works, Tony is uniquely qualified to write about how the little guy can become financially savvy and secure. He has opened up a dialogue about investing today. He reveals some rather new investment vehicles, like income insurance, that have previously been available only to the ultra wealthy.
No way can “outsiders” trade with traders who have access to micro-trading apparatus. No way can “outsiders” spend the hours it takes to keep tabs on the thousands of investment opportunities; complicated investment methods like derivatives and short sales; the tax rules, etc. So where does that leave the “outsiders” aka the rest of us? Tony focuses on answering that question.

Most people do not understand why they invest in the first place, according to Tony. They have vague ideas, for example: invest for retirement or invest to build assets. However, those reasons lack focus and oomph. No wonder we don't make investing a priority.

The only reason to invest is INCOME. You spend income, not assets. Therefore, becoming financially free depends upon creating a nest egg as quickly as possible and then turning that egg into an income-producing machine.  But how to build that nest egg, you ask? You need an income, to start with (just like the old saying goes, “it takes money to make money.”)
1) Become an Investor, not a Consumer: Automate your saving by taking a percentage of your paycheck (ideally 10% or more, but you can start with as little as 3 and ½ percent), and systematically invest it in a low-cost index fund, like Vanguard’s S&P 500 (also known as dollar cost averaging ;)

2) Become an Insider on Investing; Apprise yourself of the rules of the money game; i.e. understand how mutual funds operate, because, 401(k)’s sink your contributions into them, and most of the world invests in mutual funds;
3) Make the Game Winnable by Getting a Plan: Get a financial advisor, who is a fiduciary, to help build and manage your wealth through other means in addition to an index fund. (Tony promotes Stronghold Financial for just such a purpose;)
4) Evaluate Your Asset Allocation: Diversify your investment portfolio through an “All Season” asset allocation strategy. (pg 411) Most of the book refers to investor Ray Dalio’s strategy for asset allocation. However, Dalio’s successful hedge fund work involves complicated derivatives and other insider hedge-fund manager techniques that require sophistication and a constant pulse-reading of “the market.”
For the book, Tony cajoled Ray into giving investment advice for the masses. The simplified version of Ray’s stratagem, for readers of Money Master the Game, consists of an investment portfolio with: 7.5% Commodities, 7.5% Gold, 30% Stocks, 40% Long Term US Bonds, 15% Intermittent US Bonds. Accumulating and proactively rebalancing such a portfolio may require a fiduciary financial advisor to optimize results. Because, as Tony admits, who has time to learn all this stuff when we have a life, job, kids? We need help!

5) Create a Lifetime Income Plan: Once your investments reach a threshold amount, which can accommodate the lifestyle you want to maintain, plan to extract an income from that nest egg you built. Tony suggests a fixed annuity with a lifetime income rider (which guarantees a minimum withdrawal benefit.) offers an annual income annuity calculator. (pg 437)
 6) Invest like the top .001%: Study and learn from those who have mastered financial freedom. Also, find ways to increase your income as much as you can and invest the extra income;
7) Just Do It, Enjoy It and Share It: Get started immediately with aggressively investing your money. Additionally, spend a portion on yourself and others in need. Spending is fun. Contribution satisfies a basic human need and feels good. Psychologically, you will not continue a plan if all you notice are numbers adding up on a monthly statement and get no tangible benefits.
Since Tony targets mutual funds throughout most of the book, I have detailed the 9 myths related to investing that he presents in Section 2:

1) Actively managed funds beat the market.
Well, 4% of them do, and it’s not the same funds either, so good luck finding “the one;”

2) Managed funds’ fees are a small price to pay.
Turns out, that the average fees (around 3.17% to own a managed mutual fund, versus 0.14% to own an Index Fund like S&P 500) add up to quite a tidy sum for the mutual fund company—not you. Example: One million dollars, invested at 8% annualized return over 30 years, grows to $7,612,256, with a 1% annual fee. That same one million dollars only grows to $4,321,943, with a larger 3% annual fee. You lose almost HALF your investment monies with only a tiny, 2% fee increase.)

3) Transparent returns in mutual funds.
NOT! The reported returns by mutual funds are not actually earned by investors, according to Jack Bogle, founder of Vanguard. (p. 116) The mutual fund advertises a specific return; however, they advertise time-weighted returns based upon putting all your money in at once, which is not what people really do; because contributions come out of every paycheck throughout the year. Real returns are called “dollar-weighted returns."

4) I’m Your Broker, and I’m here to Help.
Well sort of—Brokers who work on commission help themselves to your money. Brokers are accountable to the Fund, not you. UNLESS your financial advisor is a fee-only based fiduciary, financial advisors sell products for commission, and they sell it to you.

5) Your Retirement is just a 401(k) Away.
But for the excessive fees that eat away your portfolio and add years to reaching your retirement goals.

6) “Just set it and Forget it.”
You must take full responsibility for your financial health.

7) Annuities suck.
Many do, however, the annuity industry is becoming more transparent and accessible to those with fewer funds to invest. The book identifies a few annuity options.

8) “You Gotta Take Huge Risks to Get Big Rewards!”
Always protect your downside in order to mitigate risk/reward ratio. The book gives detailed examples of how some experts evaluate an investment and protect the downside.

9) “The Lies We Tell Ourselves.”
Get your head out of the sand and take action regarding your financial health.

Tony recommends several tools, besides obtaining your own financial advisor, in order to achieve better investing results as quickly as possible. The reason to use such tools: reach retirement goals up to 10 years sooner than you would without these tools. For example, he starts with a downloadable app designed for the book, to get investors to create an investment roadmap.

1) A fee calculator at analyzes investors’ current plan administration fees (p.111)
2) America's Best 401k checks the fees your current, actively managed 401k collects. Americas Best 401k offer low cost index funds to replace an investor’s fee-laden managed fund.
3) Stronghold Financial, a company that Tony promotes throughout the book, offers a complimentary analysis of investors’ current portfolios.

Tony spent about 4 years interviewing several masters of the game; billionaires like Ray Dalio and Warren Buffet (a chance meeting with Warren, really.) Good read. I like to learn about how ultra wealthy people operate and perhaps glean some insights. Nevertheless, the interesting interviews were not necessarily relevant to the book’s main idea of investment strategies for the little guy.
Let’s face it, for most of us, investing our hard-earned money is a necessary evil and probably boring. We'd all rather be golfing, even if we hate golfing. Maybe that’s why Tony included a chapter about the future of technology, which I found fascinating, fun and hopeful. That chapter gave the greatest final pep talk and valid reasons to take personal financial wealth seriously. Financial freedom will make it far easier to apprise ourselves of the amazing things to come, like 3-D printing biological body parts, for example. Need a new bone, liver or lung? Technology may have that need covered in our lifetime. And you know that insurance companies will lag far behind, so you'll need some extra money.

It’s in the offing: Star Trek comes to life for us all. We'd better be financially prepared and fully stifle the greatest fear amongst retirees: it's not death; it's outliving one's money.