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Sunday, September 19, 2021

Thankful Thursday: Thanksgiving Thoughts 2020

"Nothing the lesser creatures can teach us is more worth learning than the lesson of gladness."––Joseph Wood Krutch, The Great Chain of Life

This November, Green Living Magazine will celebrate the power of gratitude through a web series called, “Thankful Thursday.” Each Thursday of November, we will publish a new article focused on the importance of thankfulness. Today, we hope that you’ll enjoy this article from contributor David M. Brown, that is also featured in our print November issue.

A few weeks ago, I was enjoying a regular mid-afternoon walk to Trader Joe’s, a quarter-mile from my East Valley home. These grocery outings offer a break from the computer keyboard, and a few casual moments for centering and considering dinner. On my right wrist, worn like a hospital bracelet, was a standard-issue mask, blue and white.

While I approached the store, an unmasked associate stopped me, smiling. 

“So good to see you,” she said, clearly happy to be outside and breathing unobstructed. “We haven’t seen you without a mask for so long we forgot what you looked like,” she added.

Through this pandemic, we have forgotten what all of us look like and how important we are to each other; we have also learned how strengthening it is to actually see each other again. I look at eyes inside the grocery, and they inspire questions. Is that…? Is that person smiling? Is she stressed? Is he happy?

This holiday season, in a year of so many challenges, let’s celebrate the blessings together: what brings us joy, what makes us glad, and what—as one of our 11 participants below says—“rocks our boat.” 

I asked some friends and business associates: “During these COVID-19 times and as we approach the holidays, what are you thankful for in terms of eco-consciousness and healthful living, the mission of Green Living magazine?”

Dorie Morales. Photo by Aaron Blackburn.
Dorie Morales. Photo by Aaron Blackburn.

Dorie Morales

Publisher, Green Living magazine

Scottsdale

As the publisher of Green Living, Dorie Morales turns living green into an art form fully embracing green living. She completed a bachelor of fine arts from the University of Arizona. Her vision of a sustainable future drives the magazine, educating and inspiring readers to make eco-conscious choices for a healthy life and healthy planet. She and her husband, Mark, have two sons.   

I am thankful and blessed for my family and friends’ health during the times of COVID-19. Health is the most important aspect to anyone’s life. Life is a gift and so precious. I am grateful that many people are aware of the environment and healthy living. And, it is so important for everyone to connect with nature and want to eat healthy.

When COVID-19 began, Mike McMahon and Green Living magazine co-founded the Fresh Food Collab with our partners, Amici Catering and Witnessing Nature in Food. We put together boxes, filled with some organic fresh fruits and vegetables, for those in need. We have also donated hot and cold meals to frontline hospital workers, domestic violence shelters and veterans. We have donated over 200,000 pounds of produce since late April of this year. 

For the Fresh Food Collab, we create videos for our sponsors and collaborators for our website to share with people who are getting back to work so that they can grow their own food, create a good mindset, eat healthy and live a good life. Our pillars of the movement are fighting food insecurity and food waste and fighting for food education. We have created a wonderful community of volunteers who have helped make this movement possible.

I am filled with gratitude that I have been able to spend time with my family, friends and the Green Living team, preparing and handing out food boxes at schools and churches. I also feel very fortunate that I have had time to connect virtually with family, friends, clients, partners and teammates through COVID-19.

I look forward to a bright future where everyone is connected to planet Earth and a healthy living and mindset.

Brad Leavitt. Photo by Roehner Ryan.
Brad Leavitt. Photo by Roehner Ryan.

Brad Leavitt

President, A Finer Touch Construction LLC

Scottsdale

Leavitt completed a bachelor of science in Construction Management from Brigham Young University in 2005 and has since worked on projects Valleywide, including the Omni Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Montelucia in Paradise Valley. He and his wife, Ashley, have six children—five girls and a boy.

 One of the benefits from these COVID-19 times has been the focus on healthy living and the home. We have seen a huge increase in demand for homes that are more healthy, sustainable and efficient. Our clients have asked for better water and air filtration, storage, and more energy-efficient methods. This has been something very important to us over the years, and even more so now.

Home offices, increased data capacity for at-home school children, and home gyms have been ever more important. Touchless faucets, self-cleaning toilets, and bidets are also so important, as are switches that turn on and off the lights automatically when you enter and exit the room to save energy. We are thankful for the continual innovation and accessibility of these items.

Lloyd Ramsey. Photo DLR Group.
Lloyd Ramsey. Photo DLR Group.

Lloyd Ramsey

Global Engineering Leader | Principal, DLR Group

Phoenix

DLR Group is an employee-owned architecture and engineering firm with 1,100-plus employee owners working from more than 30 offices across the United States.

During these challenging times, I am reminded that I have much to be thankful for. My family has been able to stay healthy, we have been able to continue to work and study from home, and we have been reminded again of just how precious life is.

This pandemic has focused a lot of attention on not just how we live but how we choose to treat each other and the world around us. It makes me think we can and should do better.

Ron Steege. Photo Ron Steege.
Ron Steege. Photo Ron Steege.

Ron Steege

Retired, Former Co-owner, La Casa Builders

Scottsdale

Steege retired from his luxury home design/build business five years ago and now paints Arizona landscapes and Biblical illuminations. He and wife, Jenn, love traveling the backroads of Arizona.

Around Thanksgiving 2019, I made a commitment to make some major health and lifestyle changes and choices. I felt I owed it to my beautiful wife, Jenn, to become a better man, physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Over the course of two decades, I had gained a significant amount of weight, which led to depression and negative thinking, and then to even more weight gain. I was desperate to change this. I needed a solution.

I set my mind and my will to a plan of action. Although rather radical, I began an intense exercise program and started eating healthy small meals, which were interspersed with fasting. My exercise included power-walking 20-plus miles a week with 2-pound wrist weights and weightlifting two to three days a week.

By the end of 2019 I had lost over 20 pounds.

When the COVID-19 lockdown hit, I had already been following a regimen. The isolation imposed by the lockdown allowed me to focus more fully on my weight loss and fitness goals. With no other lifestyle distractions, my concentration on my goals was easier to maintain.

By month seven into my program I had lost 60 pounds. I had regained my fitness, which in turn changed my negative thinking patterns and helped me restore my relationship with Jenn, my life partner in body, mind, soul and spirit. 

If I can do this at age 75, anyone can do it.

This Thanksgiving and holiday season, I have so much to be grateful for… blessings upon blessings.

Ken Edwins. Courtesy Ken Edwins.
Ken Edwins. Courtesy Ken Edwins.

Ken Edwins

CEO, Wealth Manager

Scottsdale

Edwins lives in North Phoenix, where he cycles on the road and in the dirt regularly. A Southwest native, he has lived in Southern California, Las Vegas, and now for 26 years in Phoenix. He has a rescue dog, Max, a Cane Corso. He loves reading. 

I began riding bikes when I was about 5–6 years old. I still remember my brother helping me take off the training wheels. That was an exciting moment.  

I graduated to a “big-boy bike” a few years later, which I promptly proceeded to crash into a fire hydrant. I bent the fork so badly that my father had to use a torch to heat the metal and make it soft so he could bend it back into shape. 

What really stood out for me about that experience was that my father went out and bought some spray paint so he could repair the paint that had been damaged by the repair job. He wanted me to continue to experience the “new” bike and not a damaged bike. He knew a complete repair would help me heal from my embarrassment.

I continued to ride bikes as I got older. I’ve ridden my mountain bike with friends of mine for close to 20 years. What started as an informal get-together turned into 20 years of riding together through the country’s economic ups and downs, and life’s many personal and professional experiences. 

During this COVID-19 experience, I have had a number of friends and family members pass away, but not from COVID. I have continued to ride, mostly by myself, and my bikes have become places of joy, meditation, solitude, and grief. Life comes with you on the bike, and you can either ride with it or stay home.

I will continue to ride through this COVID experience and live in the hope that the day comes when we have no more COVID infections and families are able to play, heal, and grieve together.

Sam Campana enjoys time with her grandchildren, Evan, top, and Connor. Photo courtesy Sam Campana.
Sam Campana enjoys time with her grandchildren, Evan, top, and Connor. Photo courtesy Sam Campana.

Sam Kathryn Campana

Former Scottsdale Councilwoman, First Female Mayor (1996–2000)

Campana moved to Scottsdale in the summer of 1969 from a rural farming community in Idaho. In addition to her political service, she established the Arizona office of the National Audubon Society, which built the Valley’s first LEED Platinum building—the Nina Mason Pulliam Rio Salado Audubon Center on the banks of the Salt River. She has three children, five grandchildren (including two sets of twins), a dog, and chickens.  

COVID-19 has brought many things into sharp focus. What I miss and what I’m thankful for are the main ones. 

My daughter and her twin boys, Evan and Connor, have been living with me through COVID-19. I’m so grateful to have them close. The boys have learned how to prepare soil (gathering cow pies and elk poop), manage a compost pile, plant seeds, thin(!) and harvest a garden. We’ve canned veggies, squeezed citrus to exhaustion, put up jam and marmalade, raised baby chicks to prolific layers, unsuccessfully incubated fertilized eggs, and learned how to make challah. How happy am I that they know better the origins of a Thanksgiving table!

Scott and Debbie Jarson. Photo Schultz Digital.
Scott and Debbie Jarson. Photo Schultz Digital.

Scott Jarson

Co-Principal, azarchitecture

Phoenix

Jarson and his wife, Debbie, are celebrating the 30th anniversary of azarchitecture/Jarson & Jarson Real Estate, specializing in the marketing of properties with unique design and architecture. Scott is widely recognized as an expert on architecture in Arizona. And, azarchitecture/Jarson & Jarson Real Estate is an ecobroker™ certified firm.

We were so fortunate to have architect Will Bruder design our home for us. His design was beautifully integrated into a desert site against the Phoenix Mountain Preserve. We had bought the lot, considered “unbuildable” by many because of its intensely natural setting. 

Our architect did not need any encouragement to make most of the location, placing the home with wonderful views and thoughtful orientation. The result has never been more noticeable and appreciated by us than in this trying time.

We are grateful for the solace we derive from communing effortlessly with the desert. Every day brings news of new life, changing light, and calming vistas; this was always an ethic integrated into the design. Our home’s sheltered connection to the outdoors allows us wonderful views, all the while being protected with thoughtful overhangs built into the design.  

From the beginning, we selected a simple and natural palette of materials that add to our ease of living: Concrete and cork floors feel great underfoot and are comfortable to maintain, woods and fabric add to the texture. Consciously choosing the right materials has paid off; recycled denim insulates the interior walls, and low-VOC materials and high-efficiency HVAC keep it clean and comfortable.

Our lot is landscaped almost entirely with native plantings to restore and blend into our gentle hillside. We’ve never needed to apply any extreme methods to “control” our environment. 

The result is a carefree setting that invites nature in. It is a place of shelter, comfort and solace. There is seldom a day passes where we both don’t marvel at our good fortune. 

We do feel that the home and location have had a positive impact on our health and outlook. I was able to meet an original owner of one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Usonian homes in New York. He built his home when he was in his 20s. Today, in his 90s, he attributes no small portion of his longevity and happiness to living in great architecture. Debbie and I could not concur more.

Vivian Ayala and Mark Candelaria, AIA. Photo Julianne McKay.
Vivian Ayala and Mark Candelaria, AIA. Photo Julianne McKay.

Vivian Ayala

Principal/Partner, Candelaria Design Associates

Scottsdale

Ayala joined Candelaria Design Associates (CDA) in July 2000 and became a partner in 2016. She lives in Phoenix with her 15-year-old daughter, Gabby. Founded in 1999, CDA designs luxury homes throughout Arizona, the California coast, and the Hamptons, New York. Founded on the principle that the design process needs to be a collaborative adventure, the firm works closely with its clients and design team to create homes and projects specifically for the needs and experience of the end-user.

During this unprecedented time and as we all feel uneasy about what is happening around us, we have also found ourselves in what we call a new routine. I have found that in my constantly busy days at work and life, I am able now to take a break from the hectic daily living, look around and have a new perspective toward my surroundings and a look back at the pace I was living my life. 

Even with the unfortunate circumstances shadowing us these days, I have found myself taking a new appreciation at staying home, being healthy, cooking with my daughter, and enjoying the beautiful Arizona outdoor settings. 

Amazingly, I found more time in my hands than usual when I realized how much driving I was doing every single day, a break Earth has also benefited from with reduced air pollution. I am thankful to build these new memories!

Tony Sutton and Esther Boivin. Photo Tony Sutton.
Tony Sutton and Esther Boivin. Photo Tony Sutton.

Tony Sutton

Principal, Est Est

Scottsdale

Sutton completed a bachelor’s degree in interior design at the University of Illinois, working in Chicago first, then Arizona, including at Est Est in 1979; he bought the company in 1984. He has worked on projects in 40 states, plus Canada, Mexico, and Europe. His wife, Esther Boivin, also has an interior design firm. Sutton has three children and three grandchildren, and Boivin has a daughter, Alessandra, who lives with them. 

Esther and I are both very social. Prior to COVID-19, we attended many events regularly. We also enjoy our personal time, and COVID has given us an opportunity to be discerning with our schedules. While we used video conferencing prior to COVID, we are using it even more now.

With remote access, there is less time spent traveling, resulting in more personal time and more free time to cook together and enjoy new recipes from scratch. We enjoy using our fresh herbs and citrus in our healthy cooking. Whole 30 has several favorites. 

We utilize our outdoor “house,” having breakfast outside and using our outdoor spa and living space.

We also spend more time at our house in Arkansas in the Ozark mountains of the North: 200-plus acres of mountains, fields, garden area, a stream and a fishing pond. Hiking trails within a diverse hardwood forest allow access to remote areas of the property with abundant wildlife. We have enjoyed sharing it with friends, teaching them to fish, cook, throw axes and knives, shoot a bow and arrow, and use a chainsaw to harvest fallen trees from the trail.  

We sit on the front porch, enjoying the view and engaging in healthy conversation. We don’t watch TV or listen to the news. It’s a wonderful way to reboot your soul with some God time while hiking the trails. 

The best things in life are free. Spend time with those you love, doing what you enjoy, and make the most of each day God gives you!

Kyle Ritland. Photo Kyle Ritland.
Kyle Ritland. Photo Kyle Ritland.

Kyle Ritland

Vice President of Marketing, Sun Valley Solar Solutions

Chandler

Since 2006, Chandler-based Sun Valley Solar Solutions has served nearly 9,000 Arizona homeowners and businesses. The NABCEP-certified company is a member of the Solar Energy Industries Association, the Electric League of Arizona, the U.S. Green Building Council, and LOCAL FIRST.

Long walks with my dog in the early mornings and late evenings have become a very welcome new routine. Most Arizonans know there is ample healing available in our breathtaking sunrises and sunsets. These are now the backdrop for a twice-daily ritual that helps me process my thoughts and reflect on many blessings.

My walks have also allowed me to meet many neighbors who were never really on my radar before COVID. We wave and smile with delight in knowing that we’ll probably do the exact same thing again tomorrow. In fact, we look forward to it.

From a professional perspective, I’m grateful to work in an industry where the long-term health and safety of our society is the primary mission. The pandemic is fraught with many unknowns, as pandemics tend to be, and I think it’s safe to say we were mostly caught unprepared.

But, we know where our current energy choices will lead us, and we know how to avoid that through different decisions. I’m thankful every day that I get to have that kind of impact on future generations, especially now.

Dr. Martha Grout. Photo Dr. Martha Grout.
Dr. Martha Grout. Photo Dr. Martha Grout.

Martha M. Grout, M.D., M.D.(H)

Principal, Arizona Advanced Medicine

Scottsdale

In 1971, Dr. Grout graduated from Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. She spent the first 25 years in emergency medicine and the next 25 moving beyond conventional allopathic medicine into functional, nutritional, Oriental, and bioenergetic medicine and acupuncture. She has a practice of integrative medicine in Scottsdale and is convinced that people who feel unwell have a reason for that feeling, and that reason can be identified and treated.  

So much of our world is living in fear these days––that they will become infected with the COVID virus, that they will die of the COVID virus, that someone near them is not wearing a mask and will infect them, that they are not wearing a mask and therefore they might get infected. Because of this fear, we are willing to give up even more of our freedoms––even to the point of accepting forced and involuntary vaccination, should that situation arise.

I am thankful that I am alive today, and that tomorrow will surely take care of itself.

I am thankful that I have my wits about me, that my body is in reasonable shape, that I am free of pharmaceutical medications, and that I am in good health.

I am very thankful that my medical practice does not have to worry about whether “insurance will let me” order the tests that I need; I can simply recommend the treatments that I feel are in the patients’ best interests, and my patients can make the decision about which tests they are willing to pay for.

I am truly grateful that the health of my bank account does not depend on what the insurance companies will pay me.

I am thankful that I finally have an office staff who are dedicated, loyal, honest, and loving, who care about our patients almost as much as they care about their own families.

I am thankful that most of my new patients have done their homework and made a decision to get healthier before they come to see me. Many of my patients have already moved to healthy food choices: organic, non-genetically modified, more plant-based foods, less animal-based. I am thankful that they have taken that first crucial step toward health.

I am thankful that my patients come to me voluntarily, expecting to work hard to restore their health. Many have investigated their symptoms online, most come in with a list of conditions they have questions about or would like to rule out. Many bring in articles from the medical literature to discuss with me. I am thankful that these patients care enough about their health to take an active part in the journey.

I am beyond thankful that my patients have made the decision to move forward and I am honored to share their journey.

I am 75 years old. I have no idea how long I will be physically present on this earth, but while I am still here, I am beyond grateful that the journey––while “interesting”––has also been fun. How many people get to do for a living what truly floats their boat?

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