Life Shifts 2021

Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you have to keep moving.

Albert Einstein

I want to take a moment and focus of my personal challenges and blessings in 2021. As the end of 2021 slams shut and 2022 comes roaring in, I am thankful for my family, friends, blessings, health, and that I still have a sense of adventure–and the ability and resources to do something about them. In short, 2021 has been a year of life shifts for me, two which have taken place in the last week. Following on Einstein’s quote above, I have been able to keep moving forward and thereby, maintain my balance. That said, 2021 was a year of significant changes for me.

The first six months of 2021 for me while sitting at home in hermit isolation from THE COVID pandemic, I poured a lot of effort into going deeper into my Zen spiritual practice. In this regard, even though I was very isolated, the pandemic had a blessing: via Zoom I was able to participate in several intense meditation “retreats,” called sesshins, from home, including meetings with my Roshi, during those first six months. I had not done a sesshin for about seven years. If the pandemic had not come along, my Zen Windhorse Center would have never (probably) started offering remote services, sesshins, and meetings with the Roshis via Zoom. Zen is an “in person” type of practice. Offerings via Zoom and Internet was almost unheard of prior to the pandemic. Since those first days, and with vaccinations and precautions, the Center has backed off somewhat, but still offers Sunday services, weekly sittings, and the first three days of sesshins via Zoom.

Did I make any progress with my efforts to go deeper? Yes. I found out how to reach a point of great stillness, which I’ve blogged about earlier (see, “Stepping into the Stillness“) and started working on my first koan, the famous Mu koan. As I have moved away now from those intense days, tapping back into that stillness is often elusive or short lived. In these holiday season, I have slipped out of being consistent in my practice. I’ve paid a price for that negligence. I can only briefly touch that stillness but not hold onto it. To “hold” it, that is, to be able to stay in it, requires more practice. The stillness helps me maintain my equanimity to cope with the ups and downs of my life. Consequently, one of my New Year’s resolutions is to get back deeper into my practice.

That first six months of 2021, I also closed down my counseling practice. I had been a professor of Clemson University for 23 years, so I thought it only fitting to step out of counseling at 23 years too. I like symmetry. No counseling practice, no need for the office space upstairs. I could downsize and move a reduced office to the multipurpose room downstairs. It occurred to me after a couple of months of being away from the counseling that, Ah ha! I could renovate my upstairs office suite into a studio apartment for rental and replace some of my counseling income.

Still in the first half of 2021, I sold my truck…


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Landlord Nightmare Before Christmas

After working several months to ge my upstairs office suite converted to an apartment, which also involved downsizing and decluttering, I was not prepared for the onslaught when I put the ad for the apartment up on FB Market last week. What a nightmare! If I didn’t believe there was a housing shortage before, I am a true believer now.

Because of the relative low rent, $450 per month that included utilities and Internet, within 30 minutes of posting, I was being flooded with inquiries and quickly became overwhelmed. I had people that were homeless, many desperate stories, in addition to a large number of not-so-desperate inquiries. The desperate stories really pulled at my co-dependent, resuer tendency that I had done so much work on through the years and the subject of a separate post later (maybe).

I had one inquirer that was homeless and living out of his car, or should I say, her car. She was trans with numerous medical problems. Another, was in a very dysfunctional family situation and being kicked out of her mother’s home that night with nowhere to go. Yet another, a mother with two children, that was homeless. On and on the stories went. This went on for two days. As a mental health counselor (retired), my red flags lit up. Many of these people had some serious psychological issues they needed to work on. This was not a counseling job. These crazies were asking to live right above me in my house. No way! It is one thing when, as a counselor and in a professional counseling situation, you can send them home after the session. The boundaries are very firmly delineated.

While I did enjoy meeting and interviewing a few of them, I had soon talked to and interacted with more people than I had for years, since doing continuing ed workshops back in the early 2000’s, I’m thinking. This caused dissonance in my hermit mindset to say the least.

Luckily, both of my daughters have very strong business heads. My oldest, Elian, quickly counseled me to tell everyone that I was only now showing the apartment, interviewing, and taking applications. That I would make a decision by the following Monday. It was Friday when I kicked off this adventure. And my youngest, Amy, slapped me repeatedly (metaphorically) when I made an early decision to rent to the woman that was sexually abused, had PTSD, and was going to be homeless that night. “Dad, you are such a rescuer! You are trying to rescue that woman!” Her persistence got through, finally. I had slipped down the co-dependency rabbit hole. Shit! Amy kept reminding me, “Dad, this is a business decision!”

This story has a happy ending…


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A Christmas Story: Hiking the Grand Canyon 1970

This is a funny story of one of my exploits back when I was finishing up my undergraduate degree at UT, Austin. Its a “remembered” story I found myself retelling to my eldest grandson, Brandon Evans, and probably my future granddaughter-in-law, Meredith Clem. It is a “remembered” story because it was long before I had started journaling on my exploits. This means I’m going on memories some 50+ years old. They may not be totally accurate, but they are in the ball park.

In one of my rare events during this COVID pandemic, I had invited Brandon and Meredith over for dinner one evening. I’d fixed a dish my brother had highly recommended, a Greek chicken and potato recipe. I’ll diverge here before going on with my story…

Now my brother, like me, is an excellent cook. So when he speaks, I listen–usually, mostly. He is rather OCD-ish (not a diagnosis, a behavior patten), whereas I’m a lot more laid back about cooking. On the Myers-Briggs Personality Inventory, he is probably a sensing type personality. Sensings want to go step-by-step and follow the recipe exactly. The benefit is that his dishes turn out the same time after time. On the Myers-Briggs, I’m a P, or perceiving, personality type. I read through a recipe, say, okay, often close up the recipe book after I’ve gotten the general idea, make modifications as I go along, depending on what I’ve got on hand, adapt the recipe to my taste–I like spicy, for example. The result is that seldom do any two fixings of my dishes come out the same. My cooking drives my brother crazy as a result. He will only begrudgingly admit it’s good if he has to and seldom volunteers a compliment. He is, however, very quick to point out anything he doesn’t like about it. It is a lovely relationship.

Unfortunately, we were not impressed with the dish, is the short of it, and I followed the recipe exactly! It didn’t go to waste, however. I made chicken gyro sandwiches out the left-over chicken. They were pretty good actually. The chickens loved the potatoes. Now back to the Grand Canyon story…


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God’s Got DNA?

In my introductory genetics class at Clemson University in my lecture on chromosomes and sex inheritance, I would sometime close with this little question. This was also after I had covered genetic mutations and how, when it came to human, or mammals for that matter, even small aberrations were usually devastating, much less changes in chromosome numbers. I’ll point out, for example, trisomy 21 which results in mongolism. This means that there is an extra copy of the 21st chromosome, a fairly small chromosome at that.

Now, when it comes to determining the sex of each individual, in humans and mammals in general, it is the Y-chromosome that determines the whether someone is a male or female. In the developmental sequence we would all be females. If an individual has a Y chromosome however, this developmental program is switched. Think of a train barreling down a railroad track and the Y like a switch to a different track for that train. This is what happens. The ordinary female developmental sequence is switched to become male when the Y is present. If it is not present, then the individual continues down the track and becomes a female. Which leads me to virgin births mythology


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