Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Wednesday August 31, 2005 Time passes

Time is so long when you are young. An hour can be an eternity. A day can be a series of great adventures. A week, a month, a summer, a school year can be so far in the future that a young child will not even stop to consider them. Looking forward, time stretches out forever until you're an old person of maybe 30.

Time is so short when you get older. It's funny how the term “old” takes on different meaning as you get older. Old used to be 30 then 40 and seemed to move up decade by decade. When you know that you are looking back on more than you have to look forward to, you are on the downward slide. Years fly by. Decades may be hard to crystallize in your thoughts looking back. The past is so full of memories that crowd in upon one another that you have a hard time distinguishing the time line of events.

Suddenly the summer is over and you face another winter. All the best plans of all that you were hoping to accomplish will have to wait for another time. It's not sad to see the seasons and years pass by so quickly. You get comfortable with yourself and your surroundings and you have your friends and family and you have your memories that you built back when time was unending and stretched out forever.

If you're fortunate, you didn't waste too much of your youth and enjoyed each day as it passed. It doesn't take much to notice just one thing each day that makes that day different from all the others.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Tuesday August 30, 2005 Another thought entirely

A long, long time ago, in the middle of a divorce, I had to rethink my priorities and replan my life. I had to analyze myself and determine what was really important for the rest of my life. I was very low at that point. I had lost my wife, my children, my home and all that I had been working for prior to then. I needed to refocus.

After much soul-searching I determined that there were several core elements in my life which would not change. You always will have your family, if you work to keep that bond alive. Friends come and go and life changes many aspects of our lives, but family is always there to care for and care about. I also determined that “things” acquired throughout your life don't really matter. You accumulate many “things” during your life and eventually have to discard most of them. They really didn't matter. They gave you temporary happiness that soon disappeared. What really gave me the most satisfaction was to bring joy into someone else's life. When they had joy, I had joy. The memories of the joy you give sustain you. Those memories won't be discarded. They are treasures you can enjoy the rest of your life. When you give joy, you are really giving of yourself and you create a link between yourself and someone else. People like to share joy – they are just afraid of being taken advantage of or or “owing” a payback favor. When I try to bring happiness to someone else, I make sure that they understand that there are no strings attached. I give freely and expect nothing. My reward is in making someone happy.

Unfortunately, this isn't true for all people. Some people only feel happy when they “win”. Winning for them may be acquiring wealth, or strength, or power. If they only could realize that wealth and strength and power fade away with the years. All you end up with is memories. Happy memories and friends and family make life worthwhile.

I didn't try to amass wealth. I set out to love and protect and care for my family (daughters, parents, sisters and brothers, aunts and uncles, cousins, etc). Over the years, I feel that we have all shared much joy and our relationships are strong and loving. It turned out that I lost what I had been working for but found much more. I have many great memories.

Tuesday August 30, 2005 The Rich get richer.

While we spend Billions on an unneeded war and throw Billions into pork-barrel projects and reduce taxes for the super-wealthy, look what happens to millions of our fellow citizens. The rich do get richer and poverty spreads. Think about this the next time you hear about tax cuts for the wealthy. Is this what we are about?

You read stuff like the following and it makes you mad. Where are our values and priorities? Obviously, they aren't where I believe they should be.

Associated Press

WASHINGTON - The nation's poverty rate rose to 12.7 percent of the population last year, the fourth consecutive annual increase, the Census Bureau said Tuesday.

The percentage of people without health insurance did not change.
Overall, there were 37 million people living in poverty, up 1.1 million people from 2003.
The number of people without health insurance grew from 45 million to 45.8 million.
Regionally, income declined only in the Midwest, down 2.8 percent.

Tim Smeeding, an economics professor at the Maxwell School of Syracuse University, says the nation has experienced a shift from earnings income to capital income and capital gains, which aren't reflected in the Census Bureau's latest numbers.

"Most of that growth in the economy over the last couple of years has gone to higher income people and has taken the form of capital income - interest, rents, dividends," Smeeding said.

From the Kansas City Star:

It was standing room only Monday in Truman Medical Center’s financial counseling center as the main health provider for the area’s poor made cuts in services.

The changes include the elimination of the hospital’s prescription assistance program and the requirement that nonemergency patients who live outside Kansas City or Jackson County make a down payment on their anticipated bill and commit to paying the balance. And Truman eliminated dental services at its Lakewood facility for adult patients who lack dental coverage, unless they work out a payment plan in advance.

And it’s possible the counseling center will become more hectic as cuts in Missouri Medicaid take effect Thursday, said Shelly Phinney, corporate manager of Truman’s financial counseling center.

More than 300,000 Missourians are expected to be affected by those changes, which include the elimination of adult dental coverage, a reduction in rehabilitation services and changes in Medicaid coverage for children.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Friday August 26, 2005 The news says it all

I can't help it. The war in Iraq is constantly on the TV, radio, internet and in the newspaper. It's really getting me down. Excuse me if I vent some of my frustrations here in this blog. It just provides an outlet for some of the thoughts rolling around in my mind.

The news says it all. Did we liberate the people or did we just try to liberate the oil? Are we liberators or occupiers? How badly do the people in that area want us to be there? Was it worth all the effort? How long will we stay and how many more lives will it cost?

“Saddam's family announced in Jordan on Aug. 8 that they had dismissed the 1,500-member Arab and Western defense team. Saddam Hussein has fired his legal defense team except for an Iraqi attorney who is the only person authorized to represent him, a court said Wednesday. On Friday, thousands of protesters in Baquba north of Baghdad took to the streets in support of deposed dictator Saddam Hussein, who now awaits trial in jail.”

“Sunnis, loudly denouncing the constitution, could block it with a two-thirds "No" vote in three of Iraq's 18 provinces, ruining U.S. plans for Iraq's future.”

“Although the talking continues, Sunni leaders have already began mobilizing their community in central and western Iraq to vote against the charter. “

“Insurgents sabotaged an exporting oil well on Friday, stepping up pressure on the U.S.-backed government facing a relentless Sunni-led insurgency. “

“In a familiar scene in a country with the world's third largest oil reserves, flames threatened to halt output from the well, which pumps 7,000 to 10,000 barrels per day and feeds a pipeline to Turkey. “

“Some Shi'ites, notably the young and influential cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, have joined Sunnis against the charter and deadly clashes on Wednesday night between his Mehdi Army militia and pro-government Shi'ite groups fueled to the tensions. “

“Bush has been insistent that Iraqis stick to a timetable for democracy set down under U.S. supervision last year, as part of an overall plan to reduce U.S. troop numbers in Iraq where they face a relentless Sunni-led insurgency. “

“As the calls for setting a deadline to withdraw US troops from Iraq grow louder a top American army general said in an interview that the army is planning for the possibility of keeping the current number of soldiers in Iraq — well over 100,000 — for four more years. “

“Uzbekistan on Friday put further pressure on the United States to withdraw troops from an air base near the Afghan border with a parliamentary vote demanding that the American military go home. “

When you put it all together, it seems like we will be going around in circles without ever getting anywhere for years to come. It was a noble thought to bring capitalism and some form of democracy to other areas of the world, but they just might not want our form of government or our type of society. Are we just ramming our ideals down their throats?

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Saturday August 20, 2005 Mistake

He still won't admit a mistake.

It's inconceivable that he still holds to his original thought that this war is a good thing to do. Each additional step we take in the muck sinks us deeper. If we don't admit that we took a bad step in the wrong direction, then we'll continue onward further and further into the mire. We need to look about us to see that we are indeed going in the wrong direction and change course.

You need a leader big enough to admit that we made a misstep who will lead us out.

The trouble is we know that our leader is probably a good man and hopefully didn't lead us in the wrong direction on purpose. The troops keep following him blindly and we keep losing our boys to death and dismemberment. What does it take to see the light?

We know now that there were NO weapons of mass destruction. We know now that
al-qaida wasn't based in Iraq and that Saddam had no connections with al-qaida. He was no threat to the United States. Most of the insurgents in Iraq that are killing our boys are coming in from other countries. The Arabs now look at us occupiers, not liberators. We are building bases and maintaining forces and apparently plan on doing so for many years to come. Our presence aids in the terrorist's recruitment.

Osama came out of Saudi-Arabia and operated out of Afghanistan. The hijackers were from Saudi-Arabia. We have not yet captured Osama, even though we have had years and millions of man hours to do so. Somewhere along the line our priorities got mixed up and we lost our focus. We keep talking about terrorists and Iraq in the same breath, but we created the situation there. The terrorists that we need to find are somewhere else.

Iraq was a mistake. Let's go after Osama.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Thursday August 18, 2005 Relief is in the air

My home air conditioner was on the fritz over the weekend and couldn't be attended to until Monday. Luckily, a cool front came through and it stayed in the high 70s and low 80s outside. My house is really set up to hold the heat or cool. While it was cool outside, inside it was 10-20 degrees warmer. I had to really work at raising a few windows/storms/screens that hadn't been opened in many a year. But with floor fans and open windows, it was tolerable. Now that the air conditioning is fixed, I realize how spoiled I have become. When I was a kid I could run and play anytime of the year and never even notice the weather. Now that I'm older and wiser, my body has adapted to conditioned air and lets me know when it's too hot or too cold to go outside. Today it was 95 and very steamy outside but comfortably cool inside. I like it!
There's nothing wrong with being spoiled, is there?

I'm ready for fall now. It can come any time now.

I heard from one of my cousins in Minnesota today and she mentioned that fall is in the air already up there. They have very short seasons except for winter - it lasts a long time. They really seem to enjoy winter and snow and ice. Once it comes, it stays - none of the slush and salt that we end up with down here. Up there you can really use skis or snowmobiles or ice houses on the lakes. Here you just slush along and wait for spring rains and mud. Oh well, no place can be perfect. I'll just sit back and enjoy my conditioned air and see what the seasons bring.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Saturday, August 13, 2005 Daughters

I need to tell the world about my daughters. I have two daughters, each different and each wonderful in her own right. I have so much pride in these two women and who they have become, that words fail me. My life has been enhanced and improved just by their presence and their love.

Deborah inspires me. She has the intelligence and ability to deal with just about any problem that comes her way. She cares deeply about the world and the people around her and has always had a difficult time dealing with careless and stupid people. She has overcome that difficulty and now knows how to work with people who don't understand. She is able to bring out the best in most of those around her. She has quick wit and quick understanding – she will often anticipate the end of your sentence before you get there. She is a beautiful person, inside and out. She is loyal and faithful and true. She is a very real person and is exactly who she presents herself to be. She is truthful but won't hit you over the head with the truth. There is no vindictiveness in her. What a wonderful person to have as a friend and daughter!

Beth is my younger daughter. She has always struggled in the shadow of her outgoing older sister. She is shy, but loving. She tends to denigrate herself, when actually she has a great deal of intelligence and understanding. She is kind and really cares about the people she has accepted into her life. At times, she seems amazed when she shows her intelligence or her poise and people look to her with admiration. Slowly, she is developing pride in herself and her accomplishments. Someday, she will have to acknowledge, as I do, that she is a wonderful person and deserves the best in life. Everyone who meets her, loves her. She also has learned much about herself and her feelings over the years and is a real person without airs. She is my friend.

I love my daughters and I am so proud of who they have become. I look forward to sharing their friendship in the years to come.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Friday August 12, 2005 What, no air conditioning?!

I remember my childhood days before home air conditioners were available. It was all you could do just to lie about and not get hot. You would run through the sprinkler in the backyard or you would soak in a tub of cool water. You would have every window and door in the house open (all with screens, of course) and you would sit in front of a fan if at all possible. At night, we would sometimes sleep out on the front porch after it got dark - it was cooler. Later, we got some window fans and dad put in a big attic fan that would blow the hot air out and the curtains would stand straight out from the windows letting in the cooler night air. One summer, when it stayed above 100 for days, we got a large block of ice and put it in a bucket in front of a floor fan and just sat there letting the cool moist air brush across us.

What brought this to mind is the fact that my home air conditioner seems to be taking a vacation right now. Yesterday when it got to be 100 outside, it got to be 85 inside. This morning it was 77 outside and 80 inside. The air conditioner has been running full blast without having any effect. I've called for help, but it will be several days. I'll just have to pray for rain or go for long drives in an air conditioned car. It's amazing how spoiled we have become. We have made our homes so airtight and buttoned up to help hold in the cool or heat that we don't have the screens or fans that we used to have. I could run through the sprinkler, but I would feel a bit silly at my age. If I sat in a cold bucket, it would be just my luck to get stuck - not a pretty picture.

With the house sealed up, you lose the sounds and feel of summer. I remember the crickets and the locusts. Remember the lightening bugs? You could hear the summer wind through the trees and you could smell the freshly cut grass. The earth was warm, but the grass was soft. Now we shut those senses off as we button down and turn on the air conditioner. Now all you hear is the sound of the furnace fan or the refrigerator or the television blaring. You gain the cool but you give up some part of living with nature.

Come winter, this will seem like a silly thing to have worried about as we wrap ourselves up in another blanket to keep warm.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Tuesday August 9, 2005 Dog Days

I'm sitting here in my kitchen looking out on the parched earth where once I had a lush lawn. The digital thermometer reads 99.9 degrees F and my central air is having a hard time getting the internal temperature down below the 80s. These must be the dog days of summer that everyone refers to. Fortunately, here in the midwest, when the temperature goes up so does the humidity so the news keeps broadcasting the Heat Index. That really helps me feel better knowing that the heat index will fry your brain in a much shorter time today. One good thing about the heat and humidity - it keeps the tornadoes and floods at bay. Nothing much moves when it gets this hot. Even the parched leaves on the trees hang limply waiting for a refreshing breeze. Maybe my daughter, who lives in New Mexico, is right. She tells me that even when it gets in the 90s and 100s, it's really not so hot because the humidity is so low. The only trouble with that is that you won't notice that you are baking in a slow oven - here you know it and you tend to duck and cover. I guess I'll just have to spend a lovely summer down in the desert someday to see how cool it really is. Come to think about it, all the cowboys used to wear hats and vests, even in the summer. It must have been cooler. I do know that you have to wear heavy clothes up north even in the summer to protect you from the mosquitos. The mosquitos in Minnesota come out at night with flashlights looking for fresh blood. Here in the midwest we only have ticks who hang out in the shade of low bushes waiting for you to stumble through.

I suppose every place has its own problems to deal with and there is no perfect place to live. There may be a perfect place to live, but the folks there are keeping it a secret so the rest of us won't invade. Sip an iced tea, stay in the shade and look forward to the frigid, barren landscape of Winter - but be optimistic.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Saturday August 6, 2005 Golden Anniversaries

I guess I'm from another time, somehow transported into this space and time. This weekend my sister and her husband are celebrating their golden wedding anniversary. While reviewing family pictures, I came across announcements when my parents celebrated their golden wedding anniversary and when my grandparents celebrated their golden wedding anniversary.
I worked for the same company for over 30 years and lived in the same community all my life.
You used to make commitments to your mate, your family, your workplace and your community and then you followed through and gave them your loyalty. They all expected to do the same for you and the world was a safe and secure world.

I believed the scout motto - trustworthy, loyal, helpful, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverant. Great ideals to guide you through life.

Now we seem to live in a world of broken contracts. Everyone seems ready to break away at the slightest hint of misfortune or trouble. There is no loyalty, it's every person for themselves. Sue thy brother before he sues you. Don't trust anyone. Suspect everyone.

I liked the other world better. It's hard to be selfish. You have to surround yourself with walls and barriers to keep out the offenders and you find that you have built your own cage.

Perhaps that's why I enjoy going out into the mountains. The natural beauty and the timelessness inspire you. The pettiness of men and societies fades away when you become another rock on the mountain. You sit and observe the trees, sky, clouds, listen to the wind and the mountain stream. You breathe clean sweet air and let your untroubled mind wander.
Deep in the mountains, there is no polution, no lasting monuments to man's follies. Time, weather and the mountains eventually reclaim all items left behind.

I celebrate the good luck of those who survive these times and are able to share their lives with someone else without building cages. It seems to be a rare thing to happen these days.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Monday August 1, 2005 It's hard to get in gear

Okay, so I've been back from vacation for over a week and I still haven't blogged my thoughts. It's hard to get back in gear after being on vacation. You have to really concentrate and find your rhythm all over again. The thing about vacations is that I don't watch television or read newpapers or listen to radio. The world seems to get along without me very well and I find the inner anger and frustration diminishing while I become comfortable with the natural world. The sun rises and the sun sets, the mountains are as they have always been and the wind blows sweet and clean.

Now that I've been back for a bit and started reading and watching, the anger is creeping back in - and I know that there isn't a whole lot I can do about it. Mankind seems to always want to dominate and control the weaker and less organized peoples. Bullys persist and those in power have learned how to wield a powerful club. It disappoints me that in the "game" of politics, the voters seem to lack the power that they once held. Now it's the special interests with the big bucks who can control the airwaves and buy the elections. We have the best congress that money can buy and they have been paying back their benefactors nicely. You and I have very little clout and very little say so in what transpires. The rich get richer and you and I seem to be stuck in a rut. Now that the manufacturing jobs have gone overseas and now that our service industry is losing its best paying jobs overseas and now that our unions are the weakest they have ever been it looks like the future for the average citizen of the USA is fading into bleak.

But then maybe I need to go on vacation again and get a fresh perspective.