Category Archives: The Way Things Are

What Can I Say?

The idea that a company or corporation or organization can determine or limit what an employee can say on personal accounts or outside office hours is somewhat troubling. And although I understand that employees (both on the clock and off) represent their companies and that their behavior can cause embarrassment for their companies, it seems a bit hypocritical that an employee can be fired for saying something the company doesn’t agree with (or isn’t politically correct) rather than for making a drunken spectacle of themselves.

However, this blog isn’t about the rights and wrongs of that particular debate.

What is more concerning is a prevalent attitude that “freedom of speech” safeguards destruction of public property or the use of the “F” word, while the mention of Jesus’ name (unless used as a curse word) is prohibited. It seems that 200 plus years of freedom has bred a generation of Americans that are historically ignorant, as well as thin-skinned and overly sensitive.

When the Founding Fathers included “freedom of speech” right up there in the same place with “freedom of religion,” they certainly did not have in mind the current state of affairs in our country.

Back then, British citizens who disagreed with the crown (government) had to exercise extreme caution even whispering their discontent behind the closed doors of their own homes. Such “treason” was punishable without trial by torture and imprisonment. Our predecessors felt that one’s freedom to speak against the policies and actions of one’s government without threat or fear was a God-given right, and as such, worth fighting and dying for. At the same time, the crown (government) forced citizens to either practice the state religion (whatever faith the king happened to be) or else forbade the practice of their individual faiths. Violations of either law resulted in serious penalties. Again, the Founding Fathers felt strongly that the ability to practice one’s faith regardless of political correctness or popularity was worth defending and dying for.

It is a rather sad state of affairs that after 200 plus years of such hard-won freedoms, Americans are willing to turn their backs on these principles based solely on the “I don’t agree with it, therefore I don’t want you to do it.” What is equally sad is these very same folks fail to realize that without these two fundamental freedoms, the very act of protesting someone else’s faith and beliefs will soon be denied them as well. Freedom of speech–and freedom of faith–is protected for everyone. Not just those who believe like I do.

Yes, there are some ideas that are outside the pale of good judgement, good morals, and public sentiment. But is the way to deal with such stupidity really to fire people, destroy their property, prohibit their ability to say what they think, or ban the practice of their faith? The very folks who decry name calling are in effect name callers themselves who want harsh judgements for others, but not themselves.

What can I say? Nowadays, probably very little.

The Perfect Game

I’ve never been a sports fan–I guess I like my comfort too much to waste time freezing at a football game sitting on uncomfortable bleachers. Or maybe I just figured it was a waste of my time to watch people shove and elbow each other until they were black and blue just to drop a ball in a basket at the opposite ends of the court.  Granted, while I’m at one of those games, I will cheer and holler for my team like everyone else, but if I have a choice of whether or not to attend, I’ll opt for not attending every time.

However, there is one game you can always take me to: baseball. Maybe it’s because I understand the rules; maybe it’s because baseball is a game anyone can play regardless of ability or aptitude; maybe it’s just because baseball is a leisurely game with no time limits.

Ah, there’s the rub. Some smart aleck in sports has decided to change the fundamental principles of baseball by insisting on time limits for pitchers and batters. Really? Are you insane? What practical purpose could time limits serve to improve the game?

Baseball isn’t about time limits. It’s about long summer days, eating hot dogs or nachos and chatting with your friends. It’s about strategy, stepping off the mound or out of the batter’s box at the precise moment to throw off the pitcher or batter. It’s about keeping the first and second base runners honest, so they don’t get too big a lead. It’s about having plenty of time to enjoy America’s favorite sport.

There’s a reason baseball is a favorite, not just in America, but around the world, and it comes back to the leisurely nature of spending time with family and friends. Unlike football and basketball, where one has to be constantly watching, baseball is more laid back. You can take your eyes off the “action” for a moment to gaze at your sweetheart or exchange a bit of conversation with your best friend.  There’s no hurry, no rush, and in today’s frenetic paced society an opportunity to slow down is welcome.

Maybe that’s why even in science fiction, baseball is still around long after all the other sports have faded into obscurity (Deep Space 9). It’s as necessary as the air we breathe. There are a lot of things MLB’s head honchos have done I’m not happy with, but this one takes the cake. To take away even a part of what makes baseball unique for the sake of a few dollars isn’t just a crime, it’s reprehensible.

Don’t mess with perfection.

 

 

 

 

courtesy StarTrek.com

America: Welcome to the Third World

We left America at the end of the Reagan years to work in Ecuador. When we came back to the States in 2000, we were shocked at how different everything was. Nothing, however, prepared us for the continual decline we’ve experienced in the last 16 years as “the land of the free” has grown more and more like a third world country.

What do I mean America is like a third world country? Yes, we still have numerous “freedoms” sadly lacking in most Third World nations; however, there are several eerie similarities that clearly shows the changing nature of our country:

  • Darker city streets and highways
  • Lack of variety in stores
  • Empty store shelves
  • “political correctness” eroding freedom of speech
  • loss of jobs for talking against the government or government edicts
  • government insurance and taxes taking half of one’s salary
  • health care that requires longer wait time for less services
  • too many rules and regulations hindering the ability to start up a new business or keeping an existing one going
  • no middle class

The list goes on. The point is we have nearly reached critical mass, where the consumers have outnumbered the producers and the producers bear the brunt of keeping things going. There are several reasons for this downward decline, but one glaring reason is the number of politicians running our country. The founding fathers never meant for politicians to rule. They meant for people to rule. Folks who understood the pinch of making ends meet, of eating beans and rice for dinner, of dreaming of a better future for their children.

Tuesday is election day. A chance for change. So instead of voting for a party, or voting for a politician, or the lesser of two evils, vote your conscience. You aren’t “losing your vote.” If you vote for the same old same old or to keep the other guy out, you’ve already lost your vote and a chance at turning things around.

This country was built on risk takers.

Be a risk taker. Vote your conscience.

 

July 4th

After spending 10 years overseas, I’m a little more aware of July 4th and its significance than I ever was growing up in the USA with all the parades, fireworks, picnics, etc. Being overseas made me appreciate things I often took for granted and some days have to make a concerted effort to remember:

*running water

*electricity on demand

*free public education for everyone

*respect and dignity for the handicapped

*respect and dignity for women

*freedom to worship

*freedom to speak a dissenting opinion

Looking in from the outside, I can see the erosion of our personal liberties and freedoms, but what is most alarming is the apathy of our citizens. Because we have not fought and struggled for our liberty, because we have not suffered under oppression, because we have not seen life outside our own borders, we do not value freedom and liberty and we do not understand the terrible prices that were paid, even though we study about them in school.

So today I give a heartfelt thank you to all our service men and women for their sacrifices to keep our borders safe and our liberty unchecked. I thank their families for their sacrifices in missed birthdays and Little League games while Mom or Dad are gone, the struggles of the parent at home to hold the fort and keep the home fires burning.

America hasn’t always done the right thing or made the right choices, especially in the past few years as politics and peer pressure dictateslifestyles, but I am still proud to be an American. In spite of the internal problems, America is still the place of choice for immigrants; it is still a beacon of hope to the oppressed, the downtrodden, the tired and weary, and those seeking a better future.

 

Simple Solution

After a visit to the Pacific War Museum in Fredricksburg last week, Bruce and I decided to rent the movie PT 109, an excellent film, made all the better since it was based on a true story. The heroism displayed during that time period got me wondering if we have any young people with the same grit and determination as those young men who gave their lives during WW II, as well as wondering about the underlying differences between that generation and the present one.

With the rise in juvenile crime and delinquency, I realized there is a radical, yet simple solution to transforming our youth culture: require every high school-college age student to complete six months in the Peace Corps. Most of our disenfranchisement among today’s youth is due to ingratitude and lack of anything meaningful in their lives. Not only would a six month to year long stint in the Peace Corps fill that gap, but it would produce a sense of accomplishment in their lives that, frankly, working at a fast food join flipping burgers doesn’t.

We can take this even  further. Instead of sentencing juvenile offenders to a stint in the prison system (where they learn to be worse, not better), require them to serve their time in the Peace Corps. Yes, I know President Kennedy’s dream was to send the best America had to offer overseas, but most of these delinquents have the potential for greatness, yet lacked the opportunity to discover it. Giving of themselves in a place far less fortunate than anywhere they may have grown up in the United States provides the chance for them to discover who they really are.

Think about the costs of keeping a young delinquent in the prison system versus the costs of the minimal stipend in the Peace Corps. Not only does the US benefit from reduced costs of imprisonment, but the other country benefits in terms of service and income (the youngsters have to eat, pay rent, and enjoy some free time); in addition, the young person has gainful employment instead of sitting in a jail cell thinking of more ways to get into mischief.

It’s a win-win for everyone.

 

A Word to the Strugglers

I’ve been to numerous graduations and have noticed over the years the gradual sugar coating of the messages. Too much “cotton candy fluff.” I’m not “successful” enough to ever be invited to speak at a graduation, but fortunately I have a blog post.

It matters who you know.

I grew up in the “baby boomer” generation under the misassumption that you could make your way in the world on your own merits and not “who you know.” Unfortunately and fortunately, this just isn’t true. Once when in Ecuador, I needed to leave the country immediately on a family emergency. Such a move was impossible without the proper paperwork, which I did not have. Standing in line, hoping and praying I could make it through customs, I found myself standing behind the second most influential man in Ecuador. I didn’t know him, but my missionary colleague did. Problem solved. Many years later, working as the editor in a small town, I learned to network with the movers and shakers as part of my job. When it was time for my daughter to graduate, numerous local scholarships came in; partly because of her efforts, but partly because these folks knew me and knew of our financial need. Make networks. Invest yourself in your community. Find people and make friends, not just to better yourself, but to understand others.

Slow and steady doesn’t always win the race, but it does get you there. I’ve always been amazed driving down the interstate or in town at the folks who think speeding is the only way to travel. I’ve seen cars zip around me only to stop at the same traffic light or bottleneck. I’ve often wonder what their hurry is and why they didn’t just leave a few minutes earlier to avoid the rush. Studies have been done that speeding doesn’t get you there that much faster—at least not faster enough to warrant risking your life or someone else’s. We’re all on the same journey and most of us are heading to similar destinations. However slow or fast we get there really doesn’t matter. I’m the kind of traveler who enjoys taking detours. Going back and forth to see my dad in Florida, I would see an interesting place and say, “Oooh, let’s stop here for a moment.” Some of our most enjoyable “Kodak” moments came from impulsive stops like this. Life has too many wonderful places to see and things to do to be in such a hurry to get to a destination, especially since there is always someplace else we need to be later on.

If you don’t put anything in, you can’t expect to get anything out. I love the old story of the hand pumps during pioneer days. Modern generations aren’t familiar with these pumps, but I wonder if we shouldn’t reintroduce the concept into society, just to teach this principle. The old pumps didn’t automatically produce water. A sealed jug would be set inside the pump and a user was expected to pour the pint of water into the pump to activate the pump. Once the water is poured in, the pump is lubricated and produces an unlimited supply of water. The same principle applies to life, work, success, friendships, etc. The problem is we are conditioned to think only large amounts of input or risk are worthwhile. Even tiny investments, over time, produce great results. I always tell my students, “Start at 18 putting $2000 a year into mutual funds and do this for seven years. Leave the money alone. When you retire, you’ll be a millionaire.” They don’t always believe me, but the financial tables prove this out. The amount itself isn’t the key; it’s the action of investing yourself, your time, your money into whatever captures your passion.

At the end of the day, you are the only one who can determine the parameters of your success. There is always going to be somebody better than you. Don’t let society’s definition of success rob you of the enjoyment of your accomplishments. You might never win the Nobel Peace Prize, make the cover of Time magazine or be named Doctor of the Year. Only a minuscule amount of people is remembered by history and there are millions of us who are equally successful as those rich and famous who are also long forgotten by history. As long as what you accomplish matters to you, it is sufficient. The parent who raises godly children, the doctor who works in a rural hospital, the farmer who provides for his family, the teacher who sees the light dawn on one student’s face, the photographer whose work graces a local hospital, are as successful as those whose names and faces are constantly before the public. One hundred years from now you will be as well remembered as they are. So refrain from beating yourself up at your “lack” of success. Enjoy your talents and your abilities; embrace your accomplishments and take pleasure in your life.

 

Malls use to be a cheap date. Not to mention an interesting place to while away a few hours just window shopping

Today, I can be in and out of a mall in under 20 minutes.

Last week, my hubby and I had some time to spare and decided to check out the local mall, something we did a lot when we were newlyweds and pretty broke. One circumference of the mall at a fast clip and we were done; the mall of bygone years replaced with a cardboard cutoff of clothing and shoe shops with little or no appeal.

I can already hear the naysayers: of course those shops don’t appeal to you; you’re old! Unfortunately, those kinds of shops didn’t appeal to me when I was young, either, but I found plenty of places to entertain and entrance in the mall when I was younger.

Malls used to contain a variety (diversity, mixture, selection, assortment, miscellany, range, not all the same) of shops. Somewhere down the years, malls lost their distinctiveness, their uniqueness.

I remember when a trip to the mall meant hours browsing two different bookstores: B. Dalton’s and Walden’s. Specialty shops offered one-of-a kind items like knives, seashells, candles, or oriental imports. Pier 51 was actually an import store with unique items from around the world, instead of a high priced home décor shop. Malls had at least one, often two, toy stores (and not the kind of plastic knockoffs you can buy at your local Walmart).

Then there were the “fun” stores, which offered boxed games, board games, gaming supplies and educational puzzles, toys, etc. Often malls boasted a “scientific” or “nature” store, which after the bookstores were our children’s favorite shops. We all enjoyed browsing the scientific knickknacks and doodads or picking up a new fossil or polished rock for our home collection.

And who can forget the pet shops? What fun checking out the cute puppies and kitties, but also looking at the fish, hedgehogs, iguanas and other rare and exotic pets.

I understand the reasons a lot of mall stores are defunct and there may be some malls in major metroplexes that still retain variety; however, we may have traded profit and ratings share for the nostalgia and magic of a bygone era when people actually made mall walking a part of their weekly routines.

Good Guys Still Win

Catching up on some of my favorite comic books/series, I’m reminded of the basic reason people are attracted to the genre, along with faerytales and fantasy. We love seeing good triumph

It’s an idea that’s not too popular in present day Hollywood or the publishing industry. Pick up any book off the shelf or check out a movie and what do you get? Evil trouncing good and if the hero wins at all, it’s at an extremely high cost and through a series of coincidences. Modern society has lost its faith in good triumphing over evil and our social media and pop culture reflect that unfortunate tendency.

Evil is often flashier, noisier, more in-your-face than good, so it gets more attention. But if the maxim “evil is stronger than good” really were true, our world would be in much sadder shape. In reality, good triumphs over evil every day.

Good shows up in dozens of small, unexpected places and unexpected ways: the person who gives up a seat on the subway or bus, the kid who helps the old couple down the street with their computer, the police officer who goes the extra mile to cut a kid a break, the firefighter who volunteers in rural areas, the neighbor who brings a meal to a grieving family, and the list goes on.

The very fact that the majority of the populace abides by rules even when there is no one around to enforce those rules verifies the strength of good over evil. Yes, I know evil exists and makes a strong showing, but more often than not ordinary people stand up to evil every day, yet never make the headlines. Being good doesn’t garner “ratings,” so the news media isn’t as motivated to cover those stories, yet they exist in far more communities than we realize.

We are used to seeing good overcome evil in the midst of tragedy and perhaps the reason the news media plays it up then is because humanity can only stand so much evil before we need to reaffirm that good wins. We are hardwired to believe in good, which is why faerytales will always remain popular, as will underdogs overcoming giants. Our default is to accept that good overcomes evil. So when we are surrounded by good everyday, it has a tendency to get “lost” in the blessings of life. Unfortunately, it takes a tragedy to reawaken us to the good that is around us on a daily basis.

Filmakers could learn a lesson or two from real life. People like seeing the “come from behind” and “feel good” movies. Such movies don’t create a fantasy world that makes us ignore the bad stuff happening every day, rather these movies and books give us a reason to try again, to get up and stand when the world is caving in. We need to be reminded that not everyone in the world is evil or bad or mean or vindictive. The majority of the world is composed of good, decent people trying to make a life for themselves and their families, and when presented with evil, they will stand up and do the right thing; they will defend the weak and helpless; they will overcome evil with good.

Remember When…

I remember a time when being different was neither good nor bad, just “different,” when speaking one’s mind wasn’t met with government sanctions or public reprisals, when having a different opinion (even if wrong) was shrugged off as being a “nut,” but never met with abusive language or physical harm.

Sad to say, America is turning its back on 200 plus years of personal freedoms in an effort to return to pre-colonial days where fear of the king kept one’s thoughts to one’s self. Or maybe we’re playing catch up to totalitarian nations where a small, ruling majority keep the general populace rigidly toeing a line in fear.

Either way, the idea that I cannot espouse my personal opinions without fear is cause for concern.

Take the case of Houston Astro slugger Lance Berkman and his opposition to a Houston ordinance allowing men in women’s bathrooms.

Leaving aside the alarming idea of purely safety issues, the fact that Berkman cannot speak his mind publically without a firestorm of demands for sanctions against him sets off all sorts of klaxons.

Whether one is for or against this issue, Berkman should be able to say what he wants to in a public forum. He should have as much right to speak against this as the next person has to speak for it.

In the media frenzy to ensure “equality for all,” we are losing our “individual equality.” When I was a kid, I remember my mom teaching us that our freedom ends where the next person’s began. It was her way of saying to be considerate of others. But nowhere did she teach us that we had to give up our freedom to allow someone else to practice his.

Meanwhile, I have to run the risk of personal and/or bodily injury just to use the bathroom in public. As a person, a bathroom should be safe. This seems to be understood in every culture except America, where we have to make something as natural as going to the bathroom a political and social issue.

If Houston is so set on “equality,” then let them either build new bathrooms or designate a section as “ non-gender.” Women already have enough issues trying find sufficient bathrooms in public places (after all, we outnumber the guys), without having to give up our bathroom space.

I’m afraid this new trend to politicize everything will force businesses to eventually close their restrooms to the public rather than deal with the hot button frenzy sure to follow.

 

Why I Hate Daylight Savings Time

Every fall I look forward to the resetting of our clocks to the natural rhythm of the day/night cycle. Every spring I dread the artificial manipulation of time which tends to warp the fabric of rationality and leave us drained and deprived of energy instead of refreshing us.

Daylight savings time is the creation of evil overlords desiring the destruction of the human race.

Maybe there’s some part of the planet where the thing actually works. I’ve never lived there. It makes no sense to me to get up at 7 or 8 a.m. in the dark, and still have daylight at 8 or 9 p.m. at night. The human body wasn’t mean to tweak its natural rhythms to such extremes.

Humans, like morning glories and sunflowers, are set to the natural rhythms of the sun. Get up in daylight, go to sleep at night. The invention of the electric light causes us to be more productive during dark, but it doesn’t upset the human body’s natural rhythms quite like daylight savings time.

Getting up in the dark starts our day off in tired mode. The unnatural sunshine late at night keeps us playing long after we should have been winding down for the day. Instead of a natural rhythm throughout the year, we frenetically overspend during the summer and play catch up during the winter. No wonder Americans are stressed!

Ecuador tried daylight savings time one year. In a country where the sun consistently comes up at 6 and goes down at 6, this seemed a bit ridiculous. But the higher ups wanted to be “civilized.” After about six months of this nonsense, the president had to discard the idea. His people simply did not comply with something that was so utterly counterproductive.

I know all the reasons why people want daylight savings time, but I’ve never seen it work in a way that made sense. From a child’s perspective, I hated having to go to bed while it was still daylight. From a parent’s perspective, I hated having grumpy, irritated children who stayed up too late because they couldn’t sleep in the daylight. As an adult, I hate the false sense of time the extra hours created, lulling me into believing it was still early when in reality it was very late.

So I’m looking forward to getting back to normal and allowing my circadian clock to reset to a proper rhythm. Maybe one day, Americans will be as wise as Ecuadorians and rebel against the stupidity of government officials who mess with the natural order of time

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