I’m boycotting Absolut Vodka

Of course, I still have to drink the remaining Absolut in the freezer, but after that it’s Stoli.



Eckhart Tolle

I recently read the Eckhart Tolle book that Oprah Winfrey showcased with her online book club. The book is probably best described as spiritual or philosophical, but it is more practical than might be expected of a book of this genre (I wouldn’t quite characterize it as ‘self-help’ though). The author has incredible insight into human nature and he is able to describe these revelations without using excessive pop psychology jargon. He occasionally uses stories from various religions to describe important concepts, but in general he does not support the dogma of religion. Although his words have already changed my life (or my view of my life) in a dramatic way, I find it very difficult to do his words justice when discussing the book with friends, especially if they have not read the book. I think this is because each person will interpret, use and communicate Mr. Tolle’s words in very different ways.

For me, the most useful concept is that of ‘creating space’ (peace) within my mind. The idea is that if I can take a moment every now and then to quiet my mind, I will be able to observe the world and my interaction with it more objectively and therefore more kindly. If I can take a moment when I am angry or depressed I will be able to experience my emotions more fully but with a much better perspective. I can observe my own thought processes from a distance which allows me to become aware of thoughts that are counterproductive to my happiness. I have practiced this mindset on several occasions now and it is surprisingly effective (I feel peaceful). This method of becoming ‘conscious’ does not require a positive attitude, a force of will or an ability to meditate. I simply become aware; of my surroundings, my thought process and the underlying emotions. The key to this is that I don’t try to change any of these. That’s it. When I make myself aware of what I am doing and how I am feeling, it suddenly becomes less important and more beautiful at the same time.

The other day I had a task to perform at work that I have always considered tedious and annoying. This particular chore is something that I believe my coworker should be doing. It has always triggered negative feelings in me which I direct toward her (she’s lazy, selfish etc). This day, I chose to be present/conscious (outside of my own ego) while doing this mindless chore. The first thing I became aware of was my negative thought processes; once I acknowledged these, I acknowledged the underlying emotions. As soon as I acknowledged the emotions, they became intense but then began to dissipate. I then realized that the emotions were not really connected to the act of performing the chore or even really associated with the negative thought processes (except loosely in my own mind/ego). The mindless chore which I hated so much gradually became a simple act which took only a few minutes to complete. I try to do this periodically, especially when I become aware of an impending angry tirade in my mind. Of course it’s always ‘easier said than done’ when it comes to improving one’s outlook on life. But I am convinced that almost everyone will get something useful out of the book.

Wine Country Cycling

Haus Frau and I are gonna look into wine/bicycle tours. This is the link she sent me a while back.


Toby’s memories


Gary Banks (Toby’s father) was born February 13, 1914. He was the fourth child and youngest son of Ben and Eva Banks. Gary only completed 8 years of formal schooling but went on to have a successful career as a business man. After he left his father’s farm he went to Barber School in Baltimore and became a barber in Greencastle, PA. At the barber shop he met Emma Hackmann who brought her younger brother in for a haircut. They were married and had one daughter, Toby.

When Toby was three years old they moved to Lancaster, PA where Gary began his career as an investment salesman and divisional manager. He also was very interested in local politics. When Gary retired from the investment business he became the Lancaster Republican Chairman. He also served two terms as Lancaster City Treasurer.

Toby remembers frequent trips to Greencastle to visit her grandparents. The times when cousins were visiting were the most fun. For an only child, all of the extra children were a great treat. Segregation of men and women was the norm. Grandfather and the “men” were in his front parlor and the “women” were either in the kitchen or the living room. The children seemed to be every where! The older cousins, John and Matthew, were usually privileged to be with the adults.

There was a large buffet in the dining room with an assortment of toys. Not a particularly great assortment but enough to keep the children occupied. There was also a gramophone in an upstairs bedroom and some very old records that were pretty entertaining.

Meal time was wonderful. If a large number of family were visiting, the children sat at a table in the kitchen. Toby liked that best of all. Grandmother usually had pies or cakes but the homemade potato chips were terrific. When the noise level increased, it appeared as though Grandmother turned her hearing aide off.

Since Toby was an only child and Gary was from a large family, he thought she should experience family life. Clive’s children were the closest to Toby’s and they were elected. For approximately ten years Toby spent a week with the family. It was the highlight of her year! Amy and Clive never complained…. at least to Toby…about the extra child. The first years were spent on the farm and then in Harrisonburg after the family moved.

Time on the farm was an exciting experience for Toby. She “helped” with chores, although it is doubtful her contribution was great. There were eggs to gather, cows to milk and then take to the pasture and return them to the barn later in the day. To this day Toby is sorry that she never accepted her Uncle’s offer to allow her to milk a cow. Those cows were scary! Toby even witnessed chicken beheading….not her favorite event. Shari (Toby’s cousin) and Toby washed dishes while the older girls helped their parents.

The farm house was a wonderful place to play “hide and seek”. Toby seems to recall that the roof was a favorite place to hide. Since she is not fond of high places, it is doubtful that she was brave enough to go out there.

Harrisonburg was an exciting place for Toby, too. There were many new places to see. The family went to church regularly and even a few funerals during Toby’s visits. Beth, Helen, and Shari (the cousins) often sang at gatherings and Toby was very impressed since she couldn’t carry a tune in a basket.

Years passed. Toby went to a School of Nursing. Her cousins went to school and married. Toby married her high school sweetheart, Tiger, and had three wonderful children Karrie, Kitty and Al. The cousins had children, grandchildren and even great grandchildren. Life was busy for everyone. But something wonderful happened after retirement. After so many years of not visiting with cousins, it was possible to see them again. Toby and Tiger have visited with most of Cliff’s children, Shari, Helen and Beth as well as the ‘boys’. They have even had several European trips with Helen and her husband. Toby has not seen Jane since she was quite young but is really looking forward to meeting her at the reunion. Reestablishing these friendships proves that there are some advantage to aging.