Who hasn't heard the astronomical
projections of how much financially we need in order to walk out of the office and into a new life? Well, I'm here to tell you, it ain't necessarily so! Here's how a smaller financial base can work when we apply the principle of due diligence analysis
long before retirement.
It's not just about the finances, it's also about us
- who we are, how we see ourselves, how we value ourselves; and it's about our legacy. Is it enough, or even important, to leave our children primarily money and the skills to maintain an impression of entitlement?Nuts and Bolts
At the moment, we may be decades away from retirement so it's easy to keep shoving that prospect into the background. Would we do that with a new business proposition, though? Or would we choose due diligence, examining a number of factors that would impact the venture? Maybe the due diligence would be a better choice for us regarding retirement; this is a great time to start thinking about future opportunities regarding our status as it fits in with technology changes projected for our future lifestyle.Finances
As we evaluate our lifestyle today, we can dissect where our money goes, so that we can select which items to continue later, and which to eliminate. For example, do we belong to the golf and country club and other memberships primarily for business relationships? If so, we can plan to drop those. Ka-ching.
How much do we spend on our business-related image? Clothes, hair, grooming, etc. Much of that can go, too, when we achieve our freedom. Ka-ching. Networking? Dinners, lunches, transportation and so on? We'll be able to drop 'em.
Perhaps, at this point, it is hard for us to visualize not having or wanting to keep up the image we have projected of our material success because, for many of us, that defines our status. In time, though, it becomes amazingly easier and easier to whittle away at them as we carve out a new vision for our lives.
Believe it or not, we may slowly realize that, in our Era of Freedom (retirement), we may wish to redefine ourselves; maybe change business 'friends' for others who share our new vision. Oh, sure, we have wonderful memories with our business-era friends, and some of those friends may transition with us to the Freedom stage. Some may not; we'll be thinking, What do they expect from me? Will they share my evolving viewpoint of life? What does their friendship cost me? Will they be worth it when I'm free?
If they won't make our new team, be prepared to phase them out at the appropriate time.
In lieu of the gym membership, we may realize that we no longer need to look so buff in order to compete with younger people; to stay fit, we can take walks and bike rides together, and do much of our home maintenance ourselves. Maybe even start a garden -- and not just a garden
-- an Aquaponic Garden
! Not only will we save money, we'll enhance the quality of our lives, and our self-esteem.
Are we paying into a life insurance policy? Why not pre-plan and pre-pay for our funeral and disbursements now, gain the tax advantages, and eliminate that expense? We can put the disbursements in trusts, if we like.
How about our home and 'toys'? Why do we have the size home we have, and all the trappings which delineate our prosperity and success? For how much longer will they seem important? For at least some of them, won't it be a relief to eliminate their maintenance and upkeep? What about the memorabilia we've accumulated? Do we really need that to define us in our new life stage? To remind us of who we were? Why? Think about it, and consider beginning to clear out that stuff. Believe it or not, once we start, we'll find it easier and easier to set the stage for the new us
We'll be wise to anticipate predictable technological and environmental changes before retiring. When the time comes, we could try to pay off our mortgage (assuming ours is still outstanding) and update our home, including appliances; alternatively, we might decide to sell our home in favor of a smaller, newer energy efficient model, thereby reducing monthly expenses even more. Solar-powered homes
are quickly growing more prevalent and feasible, as they gradually replace our fossil-fuel dependent homes.
If you can buy a new energy-efficient car when you retire, plan to do so; you will be well on your way to further reducing future expenses. New environmental regulations are on the table, meaning that emissions-free electric vehicles (EV)
represent the automotive future, with exponential growth projected comparatively soon. Why not consider buying yours as your retirement gift to yourself?
As you anticipate making changes that may seem radical today but normal tomorrow, it's worth considering also that you will be leading the way for your children and children's children who will consider energy efficiency to be the norm.Head and Heart
Next step would be a careful re-evaluation of our self-image and self-esteem, along with the short- and long-term plans for the next stages of life. How much of the way we see ourselves relates to our job? Do we identify with our title? Is that what defines us? It wasn't always that way, though. Back in our murky past, we were simply young Jane or John, looking forward to all the possibilities life would offer.
Well, eventually we will transition back from our work title with all its ramifications and trappings, to just Jane or John again -- human being, mother, father, spouse, widow(er). Can we imagine anticipating any changes more profound for the coming stages of our lives? What will we find to define and anchor us through these changes?
I've found that if we have, over time, determined a flexible, central plan to apply to our retirement, and have even written a vision and mission statement for it, we will have a strong life-raft to hang on to, helping us to maintain our feeling of relevance, as we navigate the changes of our life. Our plan will fuel our ongoing passion as we build our self-esteem in our new self-image, and we will eagerly look forward to each day's pursuit of our overall purpose, which will fit flexibly into the ancillary activities we enjoy.Legacy
Realizing that three generations or fewer after I am gone, I will be completely forgotten except for the ideas and inspiration I may leave behind, is truly sobering.
My personal plan is simply writing to inspire
and support current and future generations in choosing lifestyles that fit more harmoniously and efficiently in the new world they will face. The paradigm will have shifted from 'Winning; No. 1', to globalized collaboration; as a global family we will be working together, solving problems together, and innovating together.
I am pointing out that, although we cannot control the actions (or inactions) of government leaders, we can work around them and create better relations and other life conditions. That will be my legacy.
With our legacy in mind, it's important for us all to make deep-reaching conclusions about the valuable gifts we will leave. Of course, we would like to leave our children financial stability and the tools to maintain enjoyable, meaningful lifestyles, but let's think about it.
How easy do we have to make the path for our children? Didn't most of us thrive on the challenge of finding our own solutions, thereby choosing our own accountability? Why should we give our children less by going into hock (or having them accrue debt) in order to acquire an education to prepare them for jobs that don't even exist at this point?
The education revolution
, including the 'pay it forward' mode, in which the institutions will pay until graduates begin earning, at which time graduates will repay according to their income, may be the future of education. We are already seeing some of these schools. At any rate, it seems unlikely that today's unaffordable education system will continue much longer.
Won't we be much wiser to focus more on teaching our children to live with integrity and compassion? To encourage critical thinking, self-reliance and problem-solving skills; strong communication skills including negotiation and conflict resolution as well as collaborative team building?
Planning for our next stage and ultimately for our home stretch is certainly a gradual process, parts of which we may not even notice occurring. As we do realize which parts of our life we can whittle away, sculpting our new selves, we become aware that we may really need much less
materially than we had initially assessed and gain much more
emotionally and intellectually. Due diligence will lead to the plan for us. The next chapters in our history books are ours to write. Are we ready?
MORE:AquaponicsCharging StationsDue DiligenceElectric VehiclesEnergy EfficientEvRetirement CostsRetirement ExpensesSolarcitySustainable
To the Media
With all the conflicts going on these days, of course it's natural for journalists to cover every gory aspect of them. I get that. The thing is, that you're repeating the same old story of blame and accusation that we've heard all our lives, and it didn't begin in modern times. War has taken place in various locations of the world through some 3,000 years
; therefore, humanity has been killing and grieving for 3,000 years. We are grieving today. Wars will not stop until the will of powerful men and women want them to stop.
The story you're neglecting is the survival of global humanity despite the futile savagery with which you continually fill your screens and pages. You keep beating the drums and fanning the flames as you continue to show primarily the horrors of these never-ending wars.
You fill the hearts and minds of your viewers and readers with only the seemingly futile savagery of it all; they, in turn, begin to label and blame those whom they feel responsible, not realizing that each side is strategizing toward their own intended gains; in this way you manipulate your audience, inadvertently, or not. People certainly don't see all that both sides are doing to the other, though we think we do; and by judging what we think we see through media coverage, we allow you, the media, to feed our polarized hatred which, in turn, your audience tends to pass down through the generations.
This sort of one-sided, primarily violence coverage, neglects the better story - how our global humanity survives through the years, despite the savagery. You don't show kindnesses of both sides toward the other, and you don't typically show much of unified movements such as Jews and Arabs Refuse to be Enemies
. You have an obligation to present all aspects of this human story.
Let's look at the overview, unchanging down through the generations. In a nutshell, self-interested governments such as the US, Iran and Qatar to mention only a few, pour funds into warring parties, profiting from the war machines as they fan the flames, pretending to try and bring peace. Political leaders keep their conflicts going, as we dance to their tune of Will they agree? Won't they? They broke the agreement,
and so on, and you beat the drums as though this is a new event; it doesn't change. Why not? Because achieving peace would be counter to the hidden agendas of the war leaders.
Do we think these leaders are less than intelligent? That, like children, they cannot figure out a solution to their conflicts? They need negotiators and mediators to help them form a compromise? Think about it; how did they gain power in such a conflicting world? How are they holding on to it? Is their savagery just an accidental byproduct? Do we actually believe that, if they really wanted to resolve conflicts they would not find a way at lightning speed?
are like children, who don't see them realistically as bright, cunning strategists who are determined to fulfill an agenda, which they keep only among themselves. Apparently, they have no currency in resolving the issues, except by annihilating the other and taking their lands.
Here's the story you are neglecting: We are in the 21st C, in the midst of massive social change. Believe it or not, parents and other caring individuals do have power against self-serving aggression, and you can proportionately cover proactive people such as theIsraelis who went to Palestine
to comfort the father of a teenager who had been murdered in Israel. Their kind gesture won't bring the boy back, of course; it won't change history. What it can
do is change the course
of history today, and that should be our focus. Bravo to those courageous Israelis who visited, and the gracious response of the grieving family.
Seeing this, I feel hopeful and more convinced than ever that the people
must solve the world's problems; politicians and profiteers have no currency in resolution. That might be worth covering.
The skills we practice and teach across the globe can ripple out from each location until they intermingle and embrace; that is an ongoing story you can cover. In fairness some, such as CNN's Chris Cuomo
and Anderson Cooper, are covering more of the human side; apparently, CNN has committed to covering a higher proportion of the glimmers of hope we see than, perhaps, they would have in the past. They and others can always do more.Family and Community
My family and community in the United States, yours in Paris, Nigeria, China, wherever. Nearly all of us across the globe do belong to a family and community.
We, who are not under immediate siege, are also powerful. We have the currency to withhold funds from warring factions, and to create a more compassionate global family. Why is it in the interest of our global humanity to find an alternate resolution so as to restore more emphasis on our togetherness than on savagery? For the children.Yasmine Calehr
, (3:32) a grandmother was waiting for the bodies to arrive in Holland; maybe her two dead grandsons would be on the planes that were landing. While she waited, this wise woman said, 'The whole world is grieving; all of global humanity is grieving
about some conflict or other. It's time for us to remember our humanity and that of others, no matter where they live. We are a global community, in which we people must come together.'
When children ask, Why do those men hurt little children?
and similar questions, what do we tell them? What skills for resolving conflict, and what hope do we give them, that the world will be better when they grow up?
We sow seeds in the garden, and we get crops; if we don't nurture them, we get weeds or even snakes. With the crop of children in Gaza, Israel and elsewhere today, when they talk of the horrors they see and the loved ones obliterated, we don't see tears; we see anger. We are allowing the creation of another generation of vicious terrorists and I don't think we decent people want to do that - to us or to them - and we certainly don't want to do it at home.
When you and I who are not directly in the line of fire continually look at the horrors, feeling impotent at ending them and we wring our hands, shouting, we are doing nothing to stop it
; we are letting those images control our thoughts, rather than seeing what we can do
to change the culture in our sphere of influence, so as to begin creating a more harmonious world for generations of children. When we begin to look more at the good that we are doing to change the climate for global humanity to again begin to flourish than the evil others commit, we will know we are working effectively to leave a better legacy.How do we begin changing the culture so that we can teach our children to resolve conflict peacefully?
We can begin with our communication skills
, and the most intimate of these is in our self-talk. Viewing images of slaughter and destruction, we may tend to think (or even to say out loud), 'Those dirty Jews', 'Those dirty Hamas killers', 'Those dirty Russians'
, whoever. We saw this sentiment spread, even to Paris, where entire communities of innocent Jews were terrorized
. By labelling others we objectify entire ethnic groups, when both sides in conflict are actually accountable. And, don't forget, others are labeling us in the United States as well - 'those dirty American war-mongerers'
, etc. By objectifying others, we teach our children to do the same, so the hatred is perpetuated.
When we see the horrifying images on the news, we should be aware of those atrocities and do what we can, then detach from them to a degree, so that we can use that emotional energy to strengthen our families and communities.
Next, we must change our polarizing American mentality that every issue is one in which a winner beats a loser. Instead, we should dissociate from personalities, in order to focus on issues. By thoroughly exploring each other's thoughts
, we can begin to find and build on points with which we can agree.
We can research where our investment funds are put - and let's not forget the obscenely profitable global arms industry. When we know which war-mongering funds are receiving our investments, we simply divest of those firms
and invest in other, more peaceful firms, including those that promote withdrawing from dependence on oil, gas and coal for energy.
Training ourselves to acknowledge that all
of the people in each ethnic group are not responsible, only a comparatively few leaders, we can avoid the tendency to blame and label the other side, as we learn how to live harmoniously together.
Still, we each have opinions on who is right, and who is the oppressor. That is natural. Can we come to a resolution in our minds of how to deal with that? Is it impossible? Not at all, says Craig E. Runde, Director, Center for Conflict Dynamics and Mediation Training Institute
of Eckerd College.
"In conflict resolution, participants need to understand what they want for themselves and for the other party. Mediators can help people explore this question when they have trouble doing it by themselves. Understanding these wants helps clarify the basis for sustainable solutions which need to address the interests of all the parties," he said.
Often, we learn that we all share the same desires - for a safe, healthy environment in which to raise happy, productive children.
Once we learn how to communicate effectively together and teach it to our children as we interact in diverse groups, we are well on the way to creating a better world.
Among numerous additional experts in promoting peace are The Clinton Global Initiative
, The Carter Center
, and Aspen Ideas
This is a seed. Please nurture it, as we nurture our children.
MORE:Abcnews Aspen Ideas Festival Bill ClintonCbsnews Chelsea Clinton CNN Eckerd College Center for Conflict Dynamics Jimmy Carter NbcNews Walter Isaacson
"Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving."
- Patrick Dennis in Around the World with Auntie Mame
We're getting older, folks! Between 2000 and 2010, 25% more Americans were over the age of 60
, and the number is growing. Just because we're getting older, though, does that mean we're aging
? Well, sure, in one sense; in another, though, we're getting younger!
How's that? Well, we're in a generational shift in how we approach our older years. Nowadays, we have so many ways to live in an atmosphere of exuberance and fun! We don't have to be wealthy living on the Riviera, nor do we have to be marathon-running athletes in the peak of health.
Let's face it; we are what we are; we have a lot to be grateful for and a whole banquet of ways to enjoy life. First, let's get the dry basics out of the way. I'm pretty sure you've heard, 'You need to lose weight and get fit, join the gym and work out, watch your food choices and portions.'
No you don't, as a primary goal, if you're like me. To me, that's about as appealing as eating a meal of sawdust but, if you're in reasonably good health and your physician has given you the go-ahead, perhaps you just need a little encouragement to slide these excellent activities into your life, through the back door.
At 73, here's how I'm doing it; you'll find your own ways, tailor-made for you. I stay grounded with life, and connected - and there's a whole world of clarification in the two. I stay grounded by living below
my means (Social Security); that takes a simple, creative lifestyle, which I manage to enrich greatly, still eating out with friends and enjoying life.
I also save $400 a year on gas power by hanging my wet clothes out to dry - in cold, balmy or hot weather -- and maintain my own house, using as few machines as possible; that means lots of body movement in sweeping, bending, etc.
Constantly exploring ways of living 'green' and saving money, I grow as much of my own food as I can; I'm even exploring setting up an aquaponics
unit in my home (and later, the garage) so that, even in inclement weather I can have fresh organic, inexpensive food. (No worrying about food prices going up, for me.) Gardening, even in my raised and ground level beds involves exercise and fresh air.
For portion control, I use the guideline of the size of my palm for most items. I'll eat any food group, though red meat and poultry less often than salmon, which I love with my greens and tomatoes. (Today's salmon was poached in lime juice, water and fresh lemongrass from the garden; that's it. Yumm!) I leave most of the sweets and other frills for occasional treats opting, instead, to purchase a variety of healthful items in small quantities - powdered milk, eggs, quinoa
, (Indian cracker, 33 calories; one minute in the microwave), salmon, whole grain crackers and deli cheese (1/2 pound to last a month), coffee and tea (no sugary drinks).
For connectedness, my day starts at around 5, listening to NPR's Morning Edition
in bed (of course, dozing off, I miss some); at about 7:30 I make hazelnut coffee in the French press and take it back to bed where I begin watching CNN's New Day
online; during commercials I'll be checking my e-mail and other online news sources.
Up at around 8 or 8:30, it's out to walk my dog up and down our hilly street, meeting neighbors along the way and stopping for a chat. As my friends and I stay in touch, we keep our fingers on each other's pulses so to speak. We know when one of us needs something, has a gripe, a triumph or an occasion of celebration. That's good; it gives us an opportunity to let out things we might otherwise hold inside and to participate with each other's goings-on.
Back in the kitchen, I have breakfast with my parakeet, continuing to watch news programs online; in the summertime, I'll usually eat Shredded Wheat without sugar, a cup of watermelon or other fruit, and enjoy Cuban coffee. Then, on to more connectedness, including visiting with friends and family both online and in person.
For me, a semi-retired journalist, I use Twitter to comment on events of the day, applaud news anchors and online blog writers or give them a little tweak in order to maintain journalistic standards of excellence. This way, I very much take part in issues relating to politics, business and lifestyle.
And I'm passionate - about informing and encouraging all of us to take control and improve our lives
, locally and globally, independent of unpredictable politics or business special interests. I focus on affirming and encouraging
, while pointing out political areas I feel need improvement. We certainly can all make a difference, and we can leave a better world for our children and grandchildren. Well, we might as well do it for them; otherwise, they'll do it anyway and we won't be the heroes we might have been!
For a zestful life today, we need to reconnect with the person we were at 13 and 23 years of age, remember the most exciting, exhilarating things we did as a younger person, and get excited about recreating them in a modified form. The secret to exuberance at a certain age
, is recapturing the feeling
we enjoyed when we were 8, 10 and 13 years old, knowing that now we're emotionally stronger, wiser and smarter.
Along with joyously embracing new challenges, we can enjoy carefree fun like we did in those wonderful childhood years before all the couch-potato gadgets came along. I remember, as a child, on my bike flying down the hill in front of our house, hands high in the air, with firecrackers popping out of the handlebars; remembering gives me the same thrill as getting up on the water today (more on that below). The feeling
we recapture will propel us forward, probably much more effectively than our brains telling us what we should
The key is to find any activity we used to enjoy - maybe basketball, volleyball, softball, playing catch or just riding our bikes (without the firecrackers). We can even hold a sock hop at home, inviting a few of our friends, along with our grandchildren and some of their
friends, dress like we did in the '50s, teach them to dance to the oldies and have them teach us some of their dances. We'll bond more with them and they will see the whole thing as a hilarious costume party. As a treat, we can eat junk food during the party.
When I was in the 8th Grade in the South Bronx, we played a dexterity-coordination-balance ball game we called Me, Me, Dropsey, Roll Your Hands to Backsey
(couldn't find a Google link, but you might remember it). I still play it someties.
It doesn't really matter what we do; once we begin, the rest will take care of itself as we begin pursuing our next, wonderful era. We might tell our stories
-- in person, and electronically; we'll laugh and we'll cry as we pass on the lessons we've learned, and experiences we've faced. Our young listeners will learn from us to be strong, adaptable and resilient, and we won't even have to shake our fingers at them!
Along with the fun, it's also good to find passion with a purpose - applying our wisdom, knowledge and skills to improving life for someone else. We could volunteer - teach someone to read, mentor a child or teen, deliver meals to shut-ins or, as my 95-year-old Mom did until she died, play the good old songs on the piano for folks in a nursing home. One favorite was You've Got to Accentuate the Positive
, from World War II - remember that one? Also, we might take a course
- learn about something new - ballroom dancing, playing a musical instrument, photography, great books, investing - the range is nearly endless. For us, nowadays, the world is our oyster!
For me, I found my joy again, training to waterski
at 70 years of age; it gave me a challenging goal, in which I could measure my progress. The training was fun despite a couple of health glitches; it took passion and discipline, giving me the excitement of visualizing the result as I sweated it out in the gym. And the pure exhilaration it gave me to be up on the water again on one ski was just glorious; and then, the cherry on top -- I took my first barefoot skiing lesson!
Now, three years later, I'm ready to try to ski again - in 2015, when I'll be 74. Whether or not I make it is less important than the wonderful journey of working out with a deeper purpose than just losing weight. Maybe I won't lose a lot of weight (I could stand to lose at least 20 pounds), but I know I'll tighten up, get stronger and more flexible, and gain stamina. From past experience, I know my eyes will start to twinkle again, and my posture and facial expression will reflect shedding years of just marking time.
As I begin with the go-ahead from my main doctor Sharon Bergquist (who's preparing for a triathlon), I'm experiencing a painful shoulder and limited range of motion so, my next step is to reconnect with Dr. Byron Milton, my sports physician, and get that shoulder resolved. In the meantime, though, I'm again working the treadmill and performing other mild exercises, working up to a full-blown training program - once I have Dr. Milton's approval.
As for challenges and obstacles such as my sore shoulder or ordinary aches and pains, I see them this way: In waterskiing, we encounter wakes from the speeding boat. We can either hit them head on - then we fall - or, we can just sail right over them, like other challenges (setbacks), taking them as an expected part of life, and soon we're on the other side. Life is meant to be a combination of highs and lows, and constant change; sadly, we'll lose people we love, and at the same time, children and grandchildren will grow up, marry and give life to their own children. How we approach change is our choice.
Some more of my secrets are that I don't label people - myself or others - and I don't tolerate stereotypes of any group. That leaves everything in an objective wide-open framework, without value judgments. I compete only with myself, and I have no regrets; whatever missteps I've made, I've come to terms with and moved on, knowing better. I live for today, with a view to leaving the best inspirational legacy I can. Realizing I'm in the homestretch of my life, I want it to count for as much good as possible.
Now, finding our joy again isn't just about adding
things; it's also about removing
things from our lives. Grudges and resentments are good starters; who cares what someone did or said to us? We have better things to think about; forgive, reconnect and let the bad stuff go; we'll feel so much lighter!
Expectations should go, too: 'Will this happen?' 'Will they live up to my expectations? It just isn't fair.'
Well, maybe they will, and maybe they won't; that's the nature of life. We'll have ups and downs, disappointments and amazing surprises. As Eckert Tolle
says, 'Nothing is good or bad; it just is. It is what it is.'
Scale down your material possessions in favor of acquiring experiences
. Start clearing out the clutter - no hurry, in your own time -- and donate those things. You've enjoyed them, now maybe you can pass them on to others; you have a new perspective on life now.
Yes! We're getting older; we're mentally and emotionally stronger than ever. We're having fun, and we're still contributing to society. What could be better? Yes, we're eating richly at the banquet of life, and just loving it as we lead the way for our next generations!
MORE:Aging HealthfullyAquaponicsBing CrosbyCNNCuban CoffeeEckert TolleEmory UniversityFirst Rate AmericaLegacyOrganic FoodSustainable LivingWaterskiing
"Hate the enemy enough, any sacrifice is justified. See the other side as 'some mother's sons', you are less willing to sacrifice your own."
-- Roger EbertWomen and men are wired differently
; men generally prefer the objective, impersonal approach to conflict, dealing with problems swiftly and decisively.
Women tend to see issues as more personal -- 'people-related' issues that can be resolved over time for the good of all. They tend to solve family problems through incentives and initiatives -- through cooperation -- realizing that in most cases the solutions won't necessarily be decisive or swift; they involve building trust through a set of skills relating to successful conflict resolution and learning to work together for the good of the family/society.
For example: one toy, two children arguing for it. The father may tend to just take away the toy, thereby solving the problem, while the mother may tell them they must take turns; each can play with it for five minutes, then give it to the other. She will set a timer for them. Or, she may encourage them to play together with it. This process involves trust in the mother to fulfill her promise while teaching patience with a long-term vision.
As the children grow older, moving into progressively more complex societal situations, they will already have a foundation for negotiating their way through them, with parental guidance.
A Woman and Child in a Sunlit Interior
painted by Albert Edelfelt in 1889.Grassroots resolution of societal conflicts
is taking place in India, Palestine, Africa, Afghanistan, Colombia and elsewhere.
The 1996 film Some Mother's Son
, set in Northern Ireland during 'The Troubles', explores the thinking of mothers with sharply conflicting viewpoints as they come to terms with the issue of whether or not to prolong the lives of their sons. The sons, on hunger strike in a British prison, have fallen into near-death comas; the mothers are left to decide about life support. The women gradually begin to understand each other's positions, and to come to terms with their own and the others' viewpoints. It is a powerful film.
Through Mothers Across Borders mothers in strife-torn situations, trying to hold their families together in as normal a manner as possible, can take heart in knowing that other mothers are supporting them. Through mothers reaching each out to each other across global borders, more and more mothers learn that they are not alone in working to nurture healthy family lives by teaching their sons (and daughters) how to get along harmoniously. Mothers can encourage each other, sharing experiences, even humorous ones, and tips on coping.
And in patriarchal societies wives, patiently and steadily can ideally show their husbands that, by learning peaceful techniques for solving conflicts including leaving grudges aside, they will become heroes in their families because they have the moral courage to change. When husbands are not open to peaceful ways, mothers can teach their sons instead.
An excellent similar project could involve Fathers Across Borders, in which they demonstrate that men are far more powerful when they participate in healthy, lasting society-building, beginning with their families, than when they go around bashing and killing. By choosing a positive approach they are building a strong, lasting legacy. As more and more mothers and fathers choose to guide their families harmoniously, their influence can ripple out across society so that, over time they create a more peaceful, safe, stable and productive world.
We never know how far we can progress anywhere until we get started and begin moving in the direction of peaceful coexistence. Mothers Across Borders is free of charge on social media, involving only a few minutes whenever convenient, to post messages of support, encouragement, humor, and tips. Getting started is easy. On the Facebook Page Mothers Across Borders
, on Twitter (#MothersAcrossBorders) and on First-Rate America
, we all can add our comments and suggestions.
In addition to building family harmony, we also want to build healthy, vibrant societies. And, of course we encourage, scholars and other experts to contribute with suggestions and initiatives for cooperative innovation, sustainability and education.
Each of us in our own culture has learned successful family dynamics. Let us share those lessons so that we can learn from each other, and grow together. When you and I are no longer on the earth and our children take over, let us take comfort in knowing we will have taught them the skills and values needed to provide a 21st century global society based on peaceful, respectful cooperation that they can pass on to their children.
MORE:Arms IndustryBobby SandsFionualla FlanaganHelen MirrenIraIraqJim SheridanNorthern IrelandOil ProfiteeringRoger EbertThe Troubles
"I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference."
As the politically religious war rages in Iraq, it's important to remember the realistic endgame. While Pres. Obama has committed a small force on the ground, backed by a show of military strength, he seems inclined to continue on the road to long-term diplomatic solutions rather than the 'bomb 'em and blast 'em' usual road of his opponents.
The 'just do something' attitude of opposing politicians who forget that their wars have created millions of veterans
, many of whom are still not receiving care, contrasts with Pres. Obama's search for a longterm, workable vision of peaceful interaction based on cooperating with a widening base of our coalition.
As Pres. Obama said in his statement on June 19 re Iraq
, 'it is not America's job to solve the world's problems, nor is it our place to tell any nation whom to elect.' (paraphrased)
Whereas in the past, we have jumped into crises alone with a bloody, dramatic flourish, times have changed; 21st Century solutions to conflict resolution
are different from those of previous eras, indicative of the huge, paradigm shift evident in nearly every aspect of society today, Obama sees the road ahead through his vision of a longterm more peaceful and safer, more stable collaborative world rather than a 'satisfy the moment' one.
Recognizing that America no longer considers itself the world's policeman who meddles in the politics of other countries to push our own agenda, Obama says we will not interfere with Iraq's, Iran's or anyone else's politics. Prime Minister Malicki may realize that, this time, it won't be so easy to entice us to clean up after their exclusionary, divisive approach. We might advise them to unify, forget their differences and work cooperatively together; however, that solution seems unlikely.
In lieu of strong military force, economic initiatives and incentives are solid diplomatic tools
which we can use to motivate Iraqis to work together.
Any country would be unwise to base human lives and national treasure on suppositions, 'they might', 'they'll probably', etc., as we did in starting the Iraq War, with today's intelligence-gathering capability - for which some complain bitterly - we can ferret out threats to our national security, and deal with them, as we have been doing.
Although Pres. Obama's approval ratings are currently as low as President Bush's were in their presidencies, the American people would be wise to recognize that Obama's moral strength, vision and leadership in this 21st Century era of peaceful collaboration and cooperation may very well preserve peace in and for the United States for us today, and for generations to come.
In a number of aspects, America is ailing at the moment; we are facing enormous difficulty in caring for our returning veterans, we're experiencing a negatively changing climate
and a widening socioeconomic gap along with a crumbling infrastructure. Compounding the problems is a comparatively inactive Congress since 2008.
We are seeing signs of growing health though, in the form of an increasingly stronger will to solve our global conflicts peacefully, along with the private sector's increasing strength in innovation and sustainability which can lead us to new economic vigor and equitability, with or without leadership of lawmakers and financial entities.Military History
During 239 years of warring under the flag of protecting democracy, the United States has lost more than 2 million men and women
. 'Might makes right'; killing and being killed has been a large part of our approach to conflict resolution. How's it working for us?
For the weapons industry, it's been great. The comparative few who profit directly and indirectly from it, are continuing to rake in billions
; for the rest of us, it's a different story. Added to the dead, wounded and missing in action of our military personnel are the suicides
, fractured families, and their financial woes.
Beginning with the Revolutionary War, America's capacity
to care for our physically and mentally wounded warriors has proven woefully inadequate. Today's Veterans Administration is overwhelmed by a number of the 2.5 million veterans, just from theIraq and Afghanistan Wars
In addition to the military issues, America is facing problems of crumbling infrastructure, rising energy costs and pollution along with a plethora of additional social issues - not the least of which is poverty. Creating and tolerating an unsafe, unstable environment is a form of social violence.
Violence begets violence, and now the United States and our allies are increasingly turning to peace begetting peace. Rather than opting for a military approach to solving global conflicts such as in the Ukraine and Iran, Pres. Obama is engaging with NATO to find economic constraints and incentives, along with a range of other persuasive methods. He is not the first President to opt for peaceful resolution as a first effort, nor is his criticism unique. Richard Nixon called Pres. Kennedy weak for his show of restraint toward Communist aggression, and Pres. Eisenhower was also considered weak
. Moral strength can be easily mistaken for weakness by those who see military confrontation as the standard.Pres. Eisenhower spoke of leadership:
"I'll tell you what leadership is; it's persuasion and conciliation and education and patience. It's long, slow, tough work; that's the only kind of leadership I know, or believe in or will practice."
As Pres. Obama told the 2014 graduating class of the United States Military Academy
, "Just because we have the best hammer doesn't mean every problem is a nail."Fareed Zakaria, centrist CNN host, summed up the emerging peaceful trend:
"The world looks far more peaceful and stable than at any time in several centuries...what is needed from Washington is not another heroic exertion of American military power, but rather a sustained effort to engage with allies, isolate enemies, support free markets and democratic values, and push these positive trends forward."Innovation and Sustainability
At the moment, for greater economic development in America, the private sector will have to take the reins, and we'll have to shift our most basic national premise from extremist winning (beating someone else) to cooperative winning (the majority benefit).
Exercising executive privilege,on June 2 Obama announced
he would sidestep Congress to initiate groundbreaking carbon pollution standards to significantly reduce greenhouse gases that cause global warming. Of course, he faces fierce resistance from Congress on this.According to Peter Altman, the Natural Resources Defense Council's (NRDC) Climate and Clean Air Campaign Director:
"We absolutely see this fight over carbon standards as essentially the Super Bowl of climate politics. It's a fight to determine whether we will protect our health and future generations."
Globally, the concepts of collaborative sustainability and protection of the environment are attracting attention in other countries as well. Breaking our dependence on fossil fuels involves moving to sustainable energy, as India, China, Canada and other countries are also demonstrating. Solar, geothermal and wind energy can, not only replace oil, they can create energy surpluses and jobs while greatly reducing pollution, with resulting improved health and resolution of a multitude of infrastructure problems. A few examples follow; innumerable others abound across the globe.Cambridge University Forum for Sustainability and Environment
is a collaborative initiative in the UK that sponsors international exploration across a range of disciplines, to discern and initiate solutions to problems we all share.
Changing approaches can, in large part, be seen as generational. Gen-Xer Richard Branson, 63, seeks to break down arguments that over-regulation and such can block innovation. His Virgin Disruptors
initiative 'disrupts' standard arguments through online discussions with successful innovators around the world.Solar Impulse
is the world's first airplane able to fly non-stop around the globe without a drop of fuel.
Elon Musk, 42, CEO of Tesla Motors (premium electric automobiles), with seed money from NASA has recently introduced the first sustainable space capsule, Dragon V2
. Designed to ferry astronauts back and forth to the Space Station, the reusable capsule can land with the precision of a helicopter.Said Musk,
"This is extremely important for revolutionizing access to space because as long as we continue to throw away rockets and space crafts, we will never truly have access to space; it'll always be incredibly expensive".
Julie and Scott Brusaw of Solar Roadways
are developing a system of solar-paneled, individually programmed discs that they say, used globally, can solve a multitude of energy problems from eliminating snow removal and potholes to drastically reducing greenhouse gases.
The Federal Highway Administration first tested the concept, then awarded Solar Roadways $750,000 to build a prototype parking lot. Evidence of the project's popularity is seen in the $2m the firm has raised through crowdsourcing.
Annually, Zayed Future Energy Prize
awards up-to $100,000 for each of four high school students across the globe to complete their energy-saving projects. The Prize is named for the late Founding Father and President of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al Nahyan, who championed environmental stewardship.
In global agribusiness, a number of American firms realize that producing non-GMO products is good business because of restrictions on GMOs in at least 26 countries including Switzerland, Australia, Austria, China, India, France, Germany, Hungary, Luxembourg, Greece, Bulgaria, Poland, Italy, Mexico and Russia. Significant restrictions on GMOs exist in about 60 other countries, as well.
Among the numerous American firms producing non-GMO food products are Resaca Sun
which provides non-GMO feed for all classes of livestock, and Estancia Beef
, with ranches in the United States, Argentina and Uruguay, provides the final product -- succulent grass-fed beef.
According to World Watch Institute
and Global Research Centre
, crops grown sustainably, without genetic modification, are more profitable in both the short- and longterm, than otherwise.Who Are The Millennials, And What Are They Doing? Approximately 25-to-34 years of age, the Millennial Generation are poised to carry the shifting paradigm forward. According to Mary Meehan in Forbes Magazine,
Our Millennial cohort was born between 1978 and 1995, as a new millennium was dawning. The world flattened and globalization exploded. As a result, Millennials have had more exposure to the rest of the world and feel a responsibility to take care of it--and they often hold companies and other institutions to the same standards. Their early lives are marked by foreign and homegrown terrorism of 9/11, the Oklahoma City bombing, and the Columbine shooting. But they also had the first helicopter parents to make them feel valued, secure, and hopeful. As socially responsible, diverse, and always-on tech natives, these traits are shaping the culture of the early 2000s.
Millennials followed by Gen-Yers who will succeed in the coming years, are looking forward, rather than backward. They see opportunity where some in generations before them might see only obstacles. And they are well-prepared to make the coming changes.Jared Kushner, 33-year-old Real Estate developer/investor, and owner/publisher of The New York Observer newspaper, addressed the 2014 Commencement Class of Hofstra University:
"You're all leaving school into a tough economy, a tough job market...but you're entering a world that is changing at record speed, and having youth today is a tremendous advantage, especially now that you have a college degree.
You're all part of the Millennial Generation; you've grown up with a lot of technology, which means that you're all fluent with a lot of the pathways through which the world is evolving today...You've all grown up understanding this technology and, as the world evolves and changes you'll see that, as we go through this Industrial Revolution, you have a much better understanding of the tools that it takes to drive a lot of change."
So, as we increasingly think globally and cooperatively, we will find ourselves in a world community where practical, peaceful approaches to problem solving will have moved us all across this new frontier of the 21st Century, led by such courageous trailblazers as Barack Obama, Richard Branson, and so many others who are pioneering to change the direction of history. The world they are creating will be the world our children and children's children will inherit.
As the 9/11 Memorial Museum opens to the public, it's good to reflect on America; who we are and why and, perhaps, to rethink negative opinions about immigration and real racial equality.
On September 11, 2001, America changed forever as we came under direct attack. Nearly 3,000 people from 90 countries died that day, and the world took the measure of American people. Thirteen years later, the 9/11 Memorial Museum opened with a dedication ceremony
attended by America's leaders and its extraordinary citizens.
While the World Trade Center's Twin Towers imploded that day, survivors made their way out of the buildings in a quiet, orderly manner; instead of stampeding and trampling each other in a panic, they helped each other even when they, ultimately could not help themselves.
Pres. Obama described the heroism of The Red Bandana Guy
. "In those awful moments after the South Tower was hit, some of the injured huddled in the wreckage of the 78th floor. The fires were spreading. The air was filled with smoke. It was dark, and they could barely see. It seemed as if there was no way out.
"And then there came a voice -- clear, calm, saying he had found the stairs. A young man in his 20s, strong, emerged from the smoke, and over his nose and his mouth he wore a red handkerchief.
"He called for fire extinguishers to fight back the flames. He tended to the wounded. He led those survivors down the stairs to safety, and carried a woman on his shoulders down 17 flights. Then he went back. Back up all those flights. Then back down again, bringing more wounded to safety. Until that moment when the tower fell.
"They didn't know his name. They didn't know where he came from. But they knew their lives had been saved by the man in the red bandana." The man was 24-year-old Welles Crowther, who died that day.
His mother Alison Crowther said, "Welles believed that we are all connected as one human family; that we are all here to look out for, and to care for one another. This is life's most precious meaning; it is our greatest hope that when people come here (to the Museum) and see Welles' red bandana, they will remember how people helped each other that day, and we hope that they will be inspired to do the same in ways both big and small. This is the true legacy of September 11th."
As the dust settled that awful night and for nights afterward, America's streets were quiet except for candlelit prayer vigils; no rioting in the streets, faces contorted with rage, and shouts for vengeance. Americans of every age, creed and color from every corner of the world came together to mourn and to care for each other and, four years later, a school in Afghanistan grew out of the rubble.
Ada Rosario Dolch was the principal of a nearby high school where educators encouraged leadership and public service. Her sister Wendy worked in Tower One of the Trade Center.
"My whole life has been about educating children," said Ada. "After Wendy died, I was with friends and said, 'Imagine if we went to Afghanistan and we built a school there. What a kick in the head to Osama bin Laden!
"With the help of my friends, four years later the school was opened in the Province of Herat. About 200 boys and girls came to study, and since then many, many more; all of them entrusted with education and their country's future. There can be beauty out of the ashes; it's hard work, but it can be done," said the educator.
That's the American spirit.
In America, in other life-shifting events such as Pres. Obama's two elections, legalization of gay marriage, tremendous economic disparity, a do-nothing Congress, greed and economic near-disaster including joblessness and foreclosures, we have also remained calm.
Oh, we've had a lot of disagreements; we've had shouting, name-calling and insulting of each other, mostly on social media, and the American people have protested vigorously, but we didn't tear our country apart; we didn't go rioting in the streets because, as Obama said at the Museum dedication, we are a country based on ideals, values and convictions and in the end, ideally, we come together on points of common ground.
When Republicans prepared to take over Congressional leadership several years ago, it seemed apparent that they might not cooperate with the nation's first black President. A journalist asked Pres. Obama who will drive America during the next two years. He replied, 'the private sector (the people) will drive America.' What he meant was that we elected our leaders, and we have the privilege and responsibility of making sure legislators work toward the ideals which will bring our inequities into balance.
All of these points about Americans are true, but they're not the essence of what makes America exceptional. We are exceptional because we are made up of a mind-boggling range of individuals. America is not perfect; far from it, but neither are you and I. America is comprised of every sort of humanity imaginable. We come from every corner and pocket of the world, and we are driven, for the most part, by ideals, values and convictions.
Yes, we come from every corner like my neighbors, who came this year from Syria. They are professional, well-educated people with green cards; the type of people who make up the marvelous concoction that is America. Two older women in the family came first, to settle with their brother who has been here for a number of years. Within a month, the ladies (whose English is improving every day) were volunteering in the community.
Then, came an older brother, a retired physician. When he arrived several months ago, he seemed to feel a little lost; today, his vegetable garden covers a good portion of their property, and he's nurturing it so that he can then nurture his family.
My friend from Northern Ireland came here a number of years ago, and settled in rural Illinois where he ran a successful B&B until retiring recently. He's well-ensconced in his community, as is my friend from China who lives in the north Georgia mountains; she is a professional artist who previously owned a Chinese restaurant.
That's the American spirit.
A nation's politicians and foreign policy do not define its people; ordinary citizens reacting extraordinarily define its people. My neighbors, friends and thousands of other people like them make America strong, rich and resilient. These are Americans and, on the whole, we are exceptionally good. Of course, people of other nations are also good; this is not to take away from anyone else. America's story, though, is unique.
At the Museum Dedication Ceremony, New York's former Mayor Michael Bloomberg said, "This museum...is a reminder to us and to all future generations that freedom carries heavy responsibilities, and it is a reflection of our belief that the true hope of humanity resides in our compassion and kindness to one another."
And New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, "...you feel sad and grateful all at the same time, at how people all over the world responded. It was as if the entire world...cried with us and asked what they could do. People from over 90 countries died on Sept. 11th and so the world understood that while this happened on our soil it happened to all of us...and people from all walks of life and speaking every language came to help us dig out from under, and bandage our wounds.
"The world felt like a tightly knit community; a smaller, more caring place. This is how goodwill begins, in the understanding that we are, underneath all our many differences, fellow men and women with a love and a sanctity for human life."
So, when we see our politicians arguing against immigration reform, let us remember that the highest common denominator
make up the largest number of our immigrants (13%).
To recent Americans and immigrants I say, whether or not you are a citizen, you are part of the fabric of America, and we need you.
We need your bravery in coming to a new land with seemingly strange customs. We need your economic values of frugality as you begin to gain a foothold on making your dreams come true. We need your humor and your values. We need the best of you; what you bring from your original lands.
We need for you to realize that you can see yourselves as Americans without losing any part of who you are. You will enhance yourselves, as you learn to help your children to bridge your original culture and your 'new' culture. Do you realize that you may be nurturing and influencing the next President of these United States?
You make America special. I make America special; each and every one of us makes America special. Your potential makes us special. Our common ideals make us special - each of our own religion's version of the Ten Commandments, our moral values - make us special.
We all want the same things -- a safe, nurturing environment for our children, a good job, comfortable home, freedom to practice our religion, to be who we are and to live free from fear.
I realize that, like all of us, America is still a work in progress, and I invite each of us to keep working together as we help America to reach her full potential. In our diversity, we'll look for the goodness and common ground in our fellow Americans (citizens or residents).
We'll enjoy and appreciate the differences among us; we'll learn from each other, we'll teach each other and, at the end of the day as Pres. Obama said at the Dedication, "(we are) a nation that stands tall, united and unafraid because no act of terror can match the strength and the character of our country...Nothing can ever break us; nothing can change who we are as Americans."
'I'm going on a journey soon, by myself.'
- John R. Fenn, Jr.
With my older brother's passing recently, my thoughts have turned to death itself; what it is, and what happens to us afterward - the migration from life through death. People's concepts of death, the rituals with which we deal with it and the hereafter are both varied and individual. As my brother seemed to realize shortly before he passed, the one sure aspect of it is that the deceasing person experiences it alone, though sometimes they seem to 'see' departed loved ones welcoming them to their next 'life'.
Our belief system may result from religious doctrine, philosophic or metaphysical ideas, or from just the belief that 'when it's over, it's over'. My beliefs regarding death stem from my eclectic makeup of Irish/Druidic genes, and experience with belief systems of Catholics, Hindus, Muslims and Buddhists; they are particularly acute now, as John Richard Fenn, Jr. has gone on his journey alone, and has learned the answer to the last great secret - what really happens after death. Whatever we may believe
in life, the reality
may or may not coincide with that.
I believe that we exist in dimensional states of consciousness based on metaphysics. For me, death is simply moving from the third dimension to the fourth, as expressed in Salvador Dali's painting Corpus Hypercubus
, popularly known as The Crucifixion, in which Christ has already left the net of the four-dimensional 'cross' (a hypercube made up of a combination of eight separate cubes
) and is beginning to move toward the fourth dimension. Dr. Thomas Banchoff
, an internationally known geometry expert who specializes in the fourth dimension, was friends with the late artist. Together, they discussed the concepts included in Dali's masterpiece; they are religious, metaphysical, mathematical and scientific.
The concept of the hypercube is both complex and profound; however, a simplistic explanation could be that the hypercube
, also known as a tesseract
, is a cube within a cube.
A geometric symbol outside our sphere of understanding, its use in the painting represents the transcendental nature of God (the Ultimate Source), which is also incomprehensible to us. The Corpus
(figure of Christ) is shown with four additional small cubes and no nails, which some scientists interpret as substituting for nails. The body is detached from the cross.
Whether the fourth dimension is time, as a number of scientists believe, or not
(according to another school of thought), the dimension does seem to be related to space, and it is in that context, I believe, that the Corpus Hypercubus
represents the metaphysical transcendence from life to another form, another dimension of existence.
Because space is a concept, rather than a physical element, it seems that the energy related to a person (thoughts, emotions, experiences stored, beliefs, etc.) can transcend dimensions. It seems reasonable to believe that the Ultimate Source can disperse and condense our energy; thus we can be reincarnated while, at the same time, unite with the Ultimate Source and also 'appear' to grieving loved ones or a dying person.
While, after my passing, I have elected for cremation because it is ecologically and economically efficient, I have also learned that that custom is an element of such ancient cultures as Celtic Druids and Vedic Hindus
, which suggest that burning allows the soul to detach from its physical form, and to free it from material attachment.
According to Dr. Karen Ralls
, "...the two cultures...share the broader concept of a special magico-religious power of music, and an awareness of the breath and of poetic verse. Druids memorised extremely long poetic sagas that often ended with a three-part cadence at the end; the bards of the Vedic literature are portrayed as memorizing lengthy poetic sagas that convey spiritual knowledge and dharmic duty, and the poetic metre often ends with a three-part cadence at the end. Thus, one can see why many scholars believe that the Hindu Brahmin in the east and the Celtic Druid in the west were lateral survivals of an ancient Indo-European priesthood."
Both ancient Celtic and Hindu deities included Gods with multiple functions, "who actualized nature forces, promulgated ethics, justice, knowledge, arts, crafts, medicine, speech, harvests, gave courage for war and battled forces of darkness, and there are Goddesses of land, rivers and springs," said Dr. Ralls.
Thus, in the Celtic Druidic-Hindu Vedic connection, we see that the metaphysical concept of existence after death is wide-reaching; however, until the time comes for each of us, we won't know the validity of that belief. As we and our loved ones all learn the answer to the last great secret, I pray we can experience peace with wherever our ultimate journey takes us, and in whatever form.Follow Molly Alexander Darden on Twitter: www.twitter.com/MollyDarden
In Kildare, Ireland, St. Brigid's Cathedral was packed on that lovely sunny 9th of June, 2011 when horse racing's close-knit community
came to pay respects to retired trainer, Sue Doyle on the Curragh in Co. Kildare.
Known for her eccentric ways and respected for so very much more, she'd come a stranger from England years before, and ended up an appreciated colleague and friend. If the measure of a person's character comes from the way they handle adversity, Sue Doyle shone her character like a beacon, with excellence as her standard.
When I met her and her father-in-law Jack Doyle in 1987, Sue was still mourning the death of her beloved husband Paul the previous year. The entire Doyle family, internationally known for meeting the highest standards of all aspects of the highly complex, exacting horse racing business, have known through the years that reputation makes or breaks a business. At their 150-acre farm at Ballysax Manor in Kildare, Jack and Sue were involved in brokering the thoroughbreds, breeding and training them, while other sons maintained separate establishments.
Jack, a famed bloodstock agent (racehorse broker), was slowing down at age 72. In the past, though, during the season he would spend nearly as much time at the American, British and other racetracks as the Irish ones, building relationships in person, before the age of social media. Gradually, his sons Paul, Peter
began to take over the bloodstock business. Paul and Michael also took on training the horses. Though, still working with the family, Mike moved his operation to North America where he covered the scene in Canada and the United States.
Back at home, 33 year-old Sue would care for the couple's young daughters; Tamso was 9 when I visited, and Bella a toddler. For a couple of years before Paul's death, the mother would also try her hand at training and she was somewhat familiar with the paperwork though, whenever he was home, Paul would mostly attend to that as well as management of the Ballysax farm and equine therapeutic swimming pool business.
After Paul died in 1986, it all fell on Sue's shoulders. She could have just thrown in the towel and cashed it all in but she decided otherwise. Horses were in her blood as well, and she opted to "carry the flag for Paul," as she said, with the training and breeding aspects of the business.
In addition to rearing her daughters, the highly individualistic young woman had to learn all the ins and outs of the entire business, and learn it fast. She couldn't afford to skip a beat.Unique Style, Personality
Instinctively, Sue Doyle understood how to maintain her own unique identity while gaining acceptance in a separate culture. According to her eldest daughter Tamso, "She raised lots of eyebrows on the Curragh
over the years, as she was a bit different; she'd do her aerobics there while waiting for the horses to come to the gallops, she drank herbal tea (unheard of at the time) and was into health food, poetry, art, culture, theatre, music, etc. As well, she arranged for Bella and me to learn the Suzuki method of playing the violin." Sue loved fashion and was usually ahead of the curve, rarely missing an issue of Vogue magazine; her colorful, individualistic outfits were another of her signatures.The Business
Tamso continued, "Just after Dad died, Mum was training 65 horses, running a horse swimming pool business and doing three return (round-trip-) school runs a day as she wanted us both to go to a Montessori school (again thinking differently to others), so almost three hours a day driving back and forth as well as running the whole show and Ballysax Manor."
Ancillary responsibilities included attending numerous races, carrying out event-planning and execution for Ballysax Manor. On one Derby Day, said Sue, she planned and hosted a luncheon for 75 followed several hours later by cocktails for 100.
One of Sue Doyle's strengths was understanding the importance of building and maintaining relationships; from the top to the bottom of the social scale, she always had a friendly word. She cared about her employees, whom she was able to trust implicitly. And her friends knew they could count on her.
Gathering trusted employees in the house and outside, she learned to delegate as Paul had taught her - carefully, while respecting each one to know their jobs and to be motivated to do them well. Everyone who worked for her knew that the success of Ballysax Manor ensured their success as well, and they took pride in doing excellent work, with Sue setting the standard. "They (employees) see that I'm working really really hard all the time, and I never ask them to do longer hours than I do. Generally speaking, I do longer hours than anybody," she said.
Paul had always encouraged her to balance her responsibilities by delegating and, apparently she got the hang of that because, as jockey Kevin Manning said, "Sue was very easy to ride for, as she told you about the horse you were riding and left the decisions up to you. She was a lovely person both on and off the track." Manning rode Bold Jessie to victory in the 1990 Tattersalls Breeders Stakes, the third richest in Ireland that year, at £281,071.
Said Manning, "I recall Sue asking me to ride Bold Jessie after she had run at the Phoenix Park. I rode her work(-out) on the Curragh gallops shortly before she ran. Sue was present with her father-in-law, the well-known bloodstock agent Jack Doyle. She was adamant that the filly would run a big race even though she was not fancied by the bookmakers. The filly duly won at a big price (25/1 I think). It was a marvellous training performance on Sue's behalf as Bold Jessie was a highly strung filly and not easy to train."
Ballysax Manor's operations could be roughly divided into the inside part, and the outside. Inside, with the help of long-time family secretary May Finnegan who worked until 2 pm or 2:30, Sue kept up with the mountain of pre-computerized paperwork involving the international business -- breeding (periodic sonograms, weight, progress of fetus), travel (passports, visas for horses), sales, including international, (pedigrees prepared, trainers approached, prices suggested, that had to be sent off by Fax or Telex to America), training (feed, individual programs, condition of horses) and on and on.
Outside, Sue relied on Noel O'Toole, her 'head lad' for 15 years, to manage the details of her directives. His responsibilities included managing the stable staff and overseeing horses in the yard (walking, feeding, daily care). He was also in charge of breaking young horses, dealing with veterinary issues and carrying out medical treatments as directed by the vet.
For training, Sue was absolutely hands-on. On the day I accompanied her with toddler Bella for the training session, I still remember that dawn gallop on the Curragh -- the thrill of the thundering hooves suddenly appearing at the crest of a distant hill, pounding down toward us, louder and louder. Then, galloping past us so close we could almost touch them, they finally slowed and the riders formed them into a circle, walking slowly so that Sue could see each one and give individualized instructions. Some trained only once a week, others more often. And some would combine a therapeutic swim or substitute swimming for their training around the course.
In the equine swimming pool, racehorse owners from as far away as the West of Ireland would board their horses in order to heal sore, stiffened muscles while staff would exercise the animals aquatically. The horses would often swim three times a day. Other, healthy, horses would often alternate the aquatic training with gallops in order to strengthen their legs and stamina without stress. The horses seemed to love the experience!
Sue retired from training 16 years before she died. "The only reason she had to give up was bad debts; bills were not paid. She was too lenient and not good at the financial end of the business," said Tamso.
A voracious reader, artist and all-round lover of life, after her retirement from training in 1995, Sue went on to earn undergraduate and graduate degrees in psychotherapy. So, what this wonderful strong woman was able to pass on to her daughters is, 'it's not as much what you do
, but what you are
that counts,' and she was quality
owns her own PR and marketing consultation firm and, with her husband David Cox, they run Baroda Stud
, a highly respected international boutique stud farm in Co. Kildare.
Bella is a fashion designer in London and head pattern cutter for Richard Nicoll
, a leading designer gracing the pages of Vogue Magazine.
And, following those before her, Tamso's and David's toddler daughter India can look forward to a whole world of possibilities!
Visiting Ireland can be either a high-end or budget experience, and I decided to combine the two for a wonderfully innovative journey to reconnect with my Irish roots.
Ireland presents delightful possibilities for a variety of travel styles. Couples, single people, old and young -- everyone can enjoy this lovely country. It's especially good for bonding with the grandchildren as you introduce them to their Irish heritage.
Having lived in a rural Irish cottage for nine years, I know the country well, and I was delighted to go back. Of course, I visited the popular tourist spots along with other areas and, with my Irish cousin's suggestions, I was delighted with some amazing little-known historic discoveries and unusual experiences.
Rather than planning a summertime vacation, I opted for two weeks in the Fall "shoulder" season, in order to take advantage of lower fares all around, from airfare to lodging and everything else. Shoulder means the season between high (summer) and low (winter). I wasn't concerned about possible bad weather because that can happen at any time in Ireland; we just take it in stride, and go on. A cost-saving option for me was to use public transportation, Bus Eireann
, rather than renting a car. This also relieved me of the worry of dealing with now-unfamiliar byroads and gave me an opportunity to visit with other travelers.
Landing in Dublin, I took a bus to the City Centre where I planned to stroll around and overnight before beginning my cross-country travel. I checked into the Shelbourne Hotel
(a splurge), and took off to visit my favorite haunts, Trinity College
with the magnificent Book of Kells, Eason's bookstore and a long, leisurely lunch at Cornucopia
on Wicklow Street. A vegetarian restaurant, Cornucopia offers a variety of options including wholefood, gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian and more; all delicious, wholesome, organic and reasonably priced.
Back to the hotel for a long leisurely nap; then I was ready for Shelbourne's world-class high tea
, and it was fabulous -- twelve selections of tea and a legendary selection of sandwiches followed by scones with a variety of toppings, sweets and pastries. Wing-back chairs or sofas, a lovely blazing fire, the clink of teacups -- I felt the world slip away, and I was in heaven!
And, to top off that magical day, I spent the evening at historic Abbey Theatre
to see "The Picture of Dorian Gray".
The next morning, having splurged the day before, it was time to tighten the belt and begin to see more of Ireland. The Irish thoroughbred horse industry is world renowned, so a short bus trip to Kildare brought me to The Curragh Race Course, and National Stud and Japanese Gardens where I was able to see a race horse's life journey from conception to champion, then stroll among some of the most beautiful gardens in Europe. Thank God it was a lovely day to enjoy it all!
Again by bus, I headed to the Rock of Cashel
dripping with Irish history. Inquiring for a B&B at the Tourist Information office in the town, I decided on Cashel House B&B
, around the corner from the City Centre and two minutes' walk from the Rock.
A wee bit weary, I popped into a pub for some hearty 'pub grub' and a chat with the locals, strolled around town a bit, and off back to Cashel House for a nice hot bath and sleep.
The rest of the trip is a wonderful blur. Still on public transportation, I headed from Cashel southeast enjoying wide, beautiful vistas, villages and public gardens, most of them in view of the Irish Sea.
I particularly remember stopping at Powerscourt Estate and Gardens
for a homemade gourmet lunch in the Terrace Cafe, a quick browse through the Avoca shop with its exquisite clothing, gifts and furniture, and a stroll through the gorgeous formal garden with its backdrop of the Wicklow Mountains.
This area in County Wicklow is well worth a longer visit, especially for golfers because, in addition to the two courses at Powerscourt, Co. Wicklow is home to 17 other courses, most of which are four- and five-star level!
Continuing around the outer perimeter of the 'Emerald Isle', through Counties Wexford, Kilkenny with its wonderful array of Irish crafts and clothing, and Co. Waterford, home of the world class Irish crystal, on to Co. Cork where I visited Blarney Castle with its Blarney Stone which is said to impart the gift of gab to anyone with the fortitude to climb up to the top and kiss it.
All along the way, the magnificent scenery gradually changes from the gentle elegance of the East to the more wild and rugged rocks and waters of Ireland's 'Wild West', on the Atlantic Ocean.
I was delighted to see that everywhere I went continued to be family-friendly; every location provided room to run and play and/or interesting children's activities to go along with the ones geared for adults. Irish people with their twinkling eyes and quick-witted fun, simply love children, and visiting children are delighted with the attention.
Here in western Ireland are some of the world's finest, most challenging and beautiful golf courses and golf links
. (Links are golf courses butting up to the sea.) Ballybunion, LaHinch, Waterville complementing the East Coast's Mt. Juliet, Portmarnock and others will take every bit of your skill to complete well.
Traveling up the West coast I reached Killarney, where I stayed at a real working horse farm, also a B&B, called Forest Haven
where Andrew Joy, the proprietor, gave me excellent advice about seeing quaint and scenic Killarney with its jaunting carts, well-known lakes and forests, and great music-filled nightlife.
In Ireland, centuries blend seamlessly together. Driving along a country road, you might see a small sign, 'Megalithic Tomb'; you'll get out (if you're in a car), probably walk across a field where cattle graze, open a gate (don't forget to close it), and there it is -- large standing stones topped horizontally with another stone. Megalithic scenes are to be found throughout Ireland, probably most of them in the West.
Killarney was a great starting point for my bus trip around the Ring of Kerry
, 111 miles of some of the most breathtaking scenery in Ireland. Passing through Kenmare, Sneem, and other towns and villages including a bog village, on the Ring you can see the two Skellig Islands in the Atlantic Ocean where, on the larger one, Skellig Michael, you can see a 6th Century Christian monastery. Also known as Great Skellig, this island is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Dingle was my next stop. A peninsula in Co. Kerry, it is the site of Ireland's earliest Christian Church, Gallarus Oratory
. So tiny that two people nearly fill it, the stone building was built between the 7th and 8th century using Neolithic techniques without mortar.
With only a few days left in my trip, I traveled up through Co. Clare to Salthill, a suburb of Galway City where I had booked a B&B at AbbeyLee
, just a stone's throw from Galway Bay.
With a warm welcome from proprietors Marie and Michael O'Shaughnessy, I started off with a wonderful cup of Irish tea and a friendly chat. "How's your trip?" they asked, and in the course of it I told them I still wanted to see Co. Clare with the Burren, and Doolin with its renowned Irish traditional music. I also wanted to see medieval-modern Galway City and the Connemara area.
You can imagine my delight when they told me that, not only could I take arranged bus tours
to visit all those sites, but that the buses would pick me up at the O'Shaughnessys' door and leave me back there at the end! Now, I ask you, what could be better than that!
Because I was, sadly, in my last four days of the Irish visit, I decided to use them optimally by taking advantage of the tours. On the first day, I opted for Galway City, with the option of getting on and off all day as the tour progressed. I visited the Old City, Eyre Square with its statue of John F. Kennedy and shopped for bargains as the Irish do, in the Eyre Square Shopping Centre
, stopping for a bite of lunch in the Dunn's Store cafeteria as I had done so many times before, with my neighbor Anne Costello. Then I visited St. Nicholas Church, the oldest continuously running medieval church in Ireland where Christopher Columbus visited in 1477. I saw the Spanish Arch and approximately 20 other historic sites.
The next day, it was on to Connemara with its green malachite stone visible in the hills we passed. We travelled through some of the most beautiful scenery I could ever imagine, stopping at Kylemore Abbey
for lunch and a stroll around the gardens. And we visited Cong, site of the classic film "The Quiet Man" starring John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara.
On my last tour day, we travelled to Co. Clare, with its world-famous natural wonders the Cliffs of Moher and The Burren
with its Aillwee Caves and megalithic dolmen. The Burren, 111 square miles, is unique in that its limestone rocks house plants both tropical and Arctic. It is bound by both the Atlantic Ocean and Galway Bay.
Back at Abbeylee, the O'Shaughnessys were kind enough to walk with me to nearby Salthill Promenade where we sat on a rock and watched the sun go down on Galway Bay. Really! What a perfect ending to a wonderful trip!
The only thing left was to take the public bus to Shannon the next day, for my flight out. All along, with a lump in my throat, my video-mind kept playing back the unbelievable variety of sights, sounds and experiences I had enjoyed in these past few days! They're still in me now, as I start planning my next trip back to Ireland, and that'll be soon, God willing.