Sunday, December 30, 2012

2012 - That's the way the old year passes...

January started off pretty well, at least for the first five days.  On day six, I popped all the tendons in my right knee.  As of today, they are still not totally healed.  My appointment the following day with the hip surgeon resulted in the determination that I had the left hip of a healthy 40-year old and the right hip of a badly deteriorated 97-year-old.  I left with the command to wear a brace on the knee, to walk with a cane, and not to fall before the first possible surgery date of March 6.
Hip surgery went extremely well.  Days after my surgery, however, my elderly mother’s health took a turn, and I spent much of my own recuperation time visiting her in hospital, rehab, and assisted living facilities.  I returned to work the first week of June, but my mother’s health issues have not ceased, so the visiting continues after work hours most days of the week and on weekends.
Since June, things at work have been unsettled.  I lost members of my staff, and those remaining have taken on much more work than can reasonably be done well by their dwindling number, even as the expectations of management increase.
To make things even more interesting, the country has endured a spate of freakish and destructive storms, children have been mass murdered in their classrooms, and billions of dollars were spent on political ads by both parties while people were starving, lacking in medical treatment, and were losing their savings as the deficit was rising.  This was made even more ironic when the incumbent won and the challenger was outed by his own son as never really wanting the presidency in the first place.  What an enormous waste of time and resources.  The negativism of the election served only to divide and polarize the population.  Now we have a government where our elected officials stubbornly refuse to compromise, rendering the entire political structure unable to function. 
I was taught that government was in place to serve the people…ALL the people.  Our elected officials are voted into office to serve US.  They are paid by US.  Good solid management requires that all options are weighed, and the options that accomplish the most good for the most people are the ones chosen.  This requires compromise on all sides.  Good management also requires housekeeping.  If an employee cannot or will not perform the tasks for which he or she was hired, they are fired from the position.  Congressmen and senators are OUR employees.  If they are not performing the function of governing, which requires intelligence and compromise, then they should be fired.  If they are basing political decisions that affect ALL the citizens of this country on their own narrow set of religious beliefs, then they should be fired.  Our forefathers created our constitution and our government with separation of church and state for a reason.  In religion, there is only right and wrong; there is only black and white.  Compromise requires gray.  If the mind sees only right or wrong, there is no ability to compromise.  If one lacks the ability to compromise, then one lacks the qualifications for governing.
What we need is to focus on the greater good…not the good for the rich, or the good for the poor, or the good for any particular race, religion, gender, age, or sexual preference.  We need to stop harping and blaming each other, or any group, and start working together for the greater good of our country, our economy, and our standing in the global view.  If we do not put aside our differences and work together to fix the real issues in this country, we may cease to exist.
How do I feel about the passing of 2012 into history?  2012 was such that I have ambivalent feelings about the inaccuracy of the Mayan prediction.  But perhaps the prediction was accurate.  Perhaps the prediction was a warning, not that the earth would end, but that our way of life would end if we didn’t learn to work together for the greater good.  Quite frankly, considering the behavior of many in this country and around the world in 2012, it would have served us right to be blown to bits in an earth-destroying cataclysm. 
2013 gives us one more chance to get it right.  I’m not sure how many chances we’re going to get.  Just remember, those who don’t learn from their mistakes are doomed to repeat them.  So my advice to everyone in the New Year is this:  You have a chance to do it right…don’t blow it.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Time Moves On...

A lot of things have happened since I last posted.  Sometimes life just throws one curve ball after the next, and you’re so busy jumping from side-to-side trying to handle what’s coming at you that the game is over before you realize it.  Once again, the holidays are upon me. Thanksgiving has come and gone. Christmas is two days away, and I’m still searching for my Christmas spirit. I really should be in the swing of things. Normally, by now, I would have made a dozen different types of cookies, four or five flavors of pizzelles, had Christmas dinner planned, and maniacally trimmed my tree by carefully unwrapping each ornament and deciding whether to use it or not.

This year, I actually considered not putting up a tree. Until my daughter called and asked if she could use my oven (yesterday), I had not made a single cookie. The pizzelle iron sits cold and unused in the cupboard and likely will remain there. As of today, I still don’t know how many people will be sitting around my table on Tuesday.

Let me clarify that none of this stems from worry about the accurate prediction of the end of the world by the Mayans. But for some unknown reason, life seems particularly unsettled. Though the election is over, both parties are still sniping at each other rather than working together. Once again, the stock market is shifting because of the possibility of going over the fiscal cliff. Tempers are flaring as the extremists on both sides of the gun control issue take aim at each other.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I have not watched the news since the shootings in Connecticut. It’s as if my subconscious knows that subjecting my conscious mind to additional stress, sorrow, depressing news, or heartache would be mentally catastrophic. What I want to know is, where are the moderates? Where are those who are the voice of reason? Have we become so polarized that there is no hope for agreement or compromise on any issue? Even though I have not watched the news, I’ve seen plenty of extreme comments on the Internet and heard plenty of them on the radio.  Yes, I am horrified and mortified by what happened at Sandy Hook elementary school, but there are number of things that any intelligent, rational person should know.

1)     Someone intent on killing will find a way. A gun may be the weapon of choice. But if they can’t find a gun, they might use a knife, or start a fire, or build the bomb. Mass murders have been perpetrated by evil men for hundreds, even thousands, of years, including during the time when guns did not exist. Our cave dwelling ancestors clubbed each other to death over food, water, or mating partners, and we’ve been killing each other off ever since.

2)     Mental illness, in most cases, is not a precursor of violent behavior. By the same token, psychopathic personalities don’t always occur in mentally ill people.

3)     Having armed “good guys” on the premises may deter someone from attacking; however, it is not a guarantee that death and injury will be prevented, as demonstrated by the shootings at Virginia Tech where they had a police force and on a military base surrounded by armed soldiers trained in weaponry. As another example, after the concealed carry permit law was passed in Florida, the number of carjackings of Florida residents went down because the perpetrators were deterred by not knowing if the resident was carrying. However, carjackings of rental cars increased dramatically. Authorities determined that the perpetrators realized those renting the cars were from out of state and were unlikely to have a weapon. It stands to reason that if schools are armed to the teeth, the person intent on killing will find a place where there is no deterrent, such as a mall, a theater, a football game, or any place where he perceives that he can accomplish his mission with a minimum of interference.

4)     Why is it that arts and entertainment always seem to get the blame from the extreme right? I agree that if someone is entirely unbalanced or psychologically disturbed, seeing a violent movie or playing a violent videogame might trigger some sort of deviant behavior. However, millions of people see those movies and play those games and do not go out and execute innocent people because of that exposure. It’s like saying that anyone who drinks an alcoholic beverage is or will become an alcoholic. Telling people what they can read, watch, or listen to smacks of Nazi-ism. Reading Harry Potter or watching Harry Potter movies does not turn young children into witches and warlocks. There is a rating system for movies and video games in this country. It is the responsibility of parents to enforce that system in their own families. I saw a brief news clip on the Internet the other day where a kid and some of his friends turned in their video games and were signing people up to not play those games anymore. The father was asked about his son’s project and proceeded to tell the reporter how proud he was of his son. But when the reporter asked why the 10-year-old child owned an R-rated video game, the father hemmed and hawed, did not answer the question, and ended the interview.

To me it seems that the answers lie not in the extremes but in intelligent, dispassionate reasoning to determine how best to protect our innocent children. The fact of the matter is, we can’t put armed guards in every public place.

I listened to the media personalities asking the question, “What was in the mind of the shooter at school?” We are never going to know what is going on in the head of someone twisted enough to gun down innocent people. We can psychoanalyze mass murderers and serial killers up one side and down the other, but unless we are as twisted as they, it is not possible for us to understand what is going through their minds.

I’m not sure how long I will avoid watching the news. I know that I will be focusing only on things that are inspirational or humorous for the time being, because that’s what I need right now. Actually, I think that’s what a lot of us need right now. I don’t know how many more banal Hallmark Christmas movies I can stomach, but at least they are predictably positive. Of course, I could always plan on watching “A Christmas Story” for the millionth time, but I’m waiting for someone to protest its broadcast because Ralphie might shoot his eye out with his infamous Red Ryder BB gun.

As Christmas heads toward me like a tsunami, I will be doing my best to foster and keep a positive attitude. When the holiday is over, I plan to take a week of recuperation time. My batteries most definitely need to be recharged!
As for everyone else, I wish you a peaceful and joyful holiday!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

TGIO - Thank God It's Over!

When I woke up on Wednesday morning, everything felt pretty normal.  I dressed as usual and headed to work via a stop at the bank drive-through.  But as I sat there with my car window down, waiting for the teller to cash my check, there was a quiet hush of peace that surrounded my car, as though there had been a subtle change in the force.  I’ve now had 72 hours with no robo calls and no political ads on TV.  It’s like heaven. Unless you live in a swing state like Ohio, you have no idea how it feels to be at the mercy, and experience the full wrath, of two opposing political parties attempting to lure the undecided to their side of the divide. 

It is interesting to note the news coverage in such a swing state as ours.  The Republicans accuse the media of left wing liberal bias.  The Democrats accuse the Fox network of right wing bias.  I stop to see my mother most days after work.  She resides in the memory wing of an assisted living facility.  They always have a huge flat-screen blaring out the news when I arrive.  The facility plays alternately Fox and ABC news.  I started paying attention to the ads that were running during that news hour.  On ABC news days, there would be a Romney ad, an Obama ad, a Josh Mandel ad, a Sherrod Brown ad, etc.  It was pretty much a back and forth thing, showing opposing ads with equal frequency.  On Fox days, it was Romney ad, Romney ad, Romney ad, Mandel ad, Rennaci ad, Romney ad, Obama ad.  This seemed to be repeated throughout the newscast.  It was pretty much 6 to 1 or 5 to 1 in favor of the Republican ticket.  The numbers speak for themselves as to media bias.

The snail mail and the phone calls were also skewed toward the Republican candidates.  Had I saved all the political ads that came in my mail each day, the stack would have been at least two feet high.  Again, I received three or four Republican ads for every one for the Democrats.  Even more annoying were the robo calls.  We were receiving six to 12 calls per day, with at least 75% from the Republican contingent.  In the last week before the election, we received a dozen or more calls per day.  Some days they were all Republican based.  Once in a while, there was an Obama call, generally from one of the unions.  A very small percentage of the calls were local candidates of both parties.  A friend told me his likelihood of voting for either presidential candidate would be inversely proportional to the number of calls received from the candidate.  Whoever called the most was out of luck.  And the Republicans pulled out all the stops.  I had calls from Mitt Romney, Ann Romney, Speaker of the House John Boehner, Clint Eastwood (who didn’t exactly make my day), Pat Boone, and countless other members who called on behalf of the RNC and its candidates.  

I cringe to think of the amount of money spent trying to get my vote.  But I’m not going to think about it anymore.  I’m so darn glad it’s over, I can’t begin to express my relief.  Interestingly, I believe that Mitt Romney would have had a real shot at winning were it not for his continual flip-flopping on the issues, his seeming lack of sincerity, his obvious disdain for those less fortunate (that pesky 47%), and his unwavering refusal to be honest and transparent on the troubling issues (such as his tax returns and not revealing any details of how he would accomplish his “plan”).  Now we, as a country, will be the audience to how the results of this presidential election play out. 

Friday, October 26, 2012

“Why should women be paid equal to men?”

I have tried fairly successfully to avoid participating in rampant political debates.  Heck, I made the “mistake” of using one of Ann Romney’s quotes as a type of analogy in a piece on work layoffs, and I received hate mail for my efforts.  I can handle that.  I am one to agree to disagree when it comes to politics.  I’m pretty certain that any argument I could come up with would never change anyone’s mind or their views. 

In the past week or so, several news articles have piqued my interest, really surprised me, or just plain managed to throw my proverbial Irish temper into a twist.  I’ll start with the temper. 

Ann Romney is at it again.  Speaking to a group of mothers for Mitt, she was asked about equal pay for equal work and the Lilly Ledbetter legislation.  Her answer was about as archaic and inane as saying a woman should be seen and not heard, while barefoot, pregnant and in her home, the only place where she belongs.  After all, she should be happy to be a housewife that is taken care of by her magnanimous husband.  And if she happens to work outside her home, she should be happy and not complain that a male doing the same job is getting paid at a substantially higher rate.

Few things anger me more that seeing women being used.  Paying a woman less for the same tasks is a form of servitude.  It is a way for men who feel threatened by intelligent and capable women to keep them oppressed.  They consider themselves to be the breadwinners and therefore more deserving of higher pay. 

Here’s a few facts from the Census Bureau.

In 2011, there were 5 million stay at home moms.  This is down from 5.3 million in 2008. 
In 2011, 23 percent of married-couple family groups with children under 15 had a stay-at-home mother.
In 2011, there were 10 million single mothers living with children younger than 18.  This is up from 3.4 million in 1970.

Let’s review.  Only 23% of women in a married situation with kids were stay-at-home moms.  The rest are out working, likely because their traditional breadwinner is not making enough to achieve financial stability. 

If 23% = 5 million stay-at-home moms, then the working 77% = >16 million working moms.  We are not counting the massive numbers of women working who no longer have children under the age of 15 at home.

There were 10 million single mothers with kids under 18.  No magnanimous male breadwinners are taking care of them.  They have to be mother, father, and breadwinner as best they can. 

In my experience, most truly professional women, be they lawyers, doctors, dentists, engineers, or whatever their chosen career are more proficient, more skilled, and better performers than their male counterparts.  Do you know why?  Because they had to work harder, test higher, be smarter, and put up with crap no man ever had to put up with to achieve their goals of careers in areas traditionally occupied by men.  I see this experience repeated in women at all levels in all jobs from white collar to blue.

For Ann Romney to say that wanting to be equal in the eyes of the law is “detrimental” to our future is ludicrous.  She also said Who’s going to want to hire a woman, or for that matter, even marry a woman who thinks she is the same, if not better than a man at any job. It’s almost laughable. C’mon now ladies, are you with me on this?”  Does she really expect any woman with a brain to agree?  A friend recently told me that Mrs. Romney reminds her of a “Stepford Wife” and I’m beginning to wonder.

Second, I shared a facebook link to a video that contained numerous influential Republicans speaking very unfavorably about Mitt Romney.  What they said was nothing new.  Who was saying it was eye-opening.  Yes, quotes can be taken out of context, but the things they were saying would not have been changed by any amount of context.  Rudy Giuliani spoke at length.  Rick Santorum and John McCain were more than clear.  And Newt was not particularly verbal, but no context was needed.  “Question:  Are you calling Mitt Romney a liar?  Newt:  Yes.  Question:  You are calling Mitt Romney a liar?  Newt:  You seem shocked.  Yes.”  I’m not sure how that could be viewed as anything other than what it was…a very direct answer to a specific question. 

Third, I was surprised.  Colin Powell publicly endorsed PresidentObama.  There are some racists who think there is only one reason for that…shared culture.  I disagree.  I admit, I am a registered Democrat, but I have never been one to vote the party line.  I voted for Bush the Elder, but not Bush the Younger.  I considered voting for McCain until he made the fateful mistake of accepting Palin as his running mate.  I have to say that if Colin Powell had run, I would have voted for him.  I look into the backgrounds and records of the candidates.  I look at their voting records and I watch for consistency on the issues, especially the issues of importance.  I think Colin Powell believes in the President and has no faith in the Republican candidate.  I don’t think race has anything to do with his endorsement.  As evidenced above, he is not the only influential Republican with no faith in their candidate.  As a matter of fact, it seems that most of Mitt Romney’s support comes from very rich banking and corporate moguls.  What’s wrong with this picture?

Likely it’s the same thing that is wrong with finding out at the 11th hour that some (not all) voting machines and software in Ohio are provided by a Hart Intercivic.  Let’s try to unwind the path.  H.I.G. Capital’s cofounder and several of its directors previously worked for none other than Bain.  Same said cofounder was a donor to the Romney campaign, and H.I.G. is a huge contributor to Mitt’s PAC organizations.  As in investment capital firm, H.I.G. has numerous investments, and Tagg Romney’s company has investments in some of those funds run by Romney fundraisers and former colleagues that also manage a fund that is invested in none other than Hart Intercivic, the voting machine company.  Although there is no direct link from one end of the chain to the other, this whole situation gives me pause.  Even if Tagg is completely innocent and has no knowledge of any of this, investors in Hart Intercivic have given enormous amounts of money to the Romney campaign.  This is a huge conflict of interest.  I now have no faith that voting machine votes for either candidate will be accurately counted.  Therefore, I encourage everyone to vote early on paper ballots.  It may seem old fashioned, but sometimes you just have to go back to go forward.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Felix Baumgartner's Leap of Faith

The wait must have been excruciating…three hours or so to achieve sufficient altitude.  People all over the world watched in amazement as Felix Baumgartner willingly jumped out of a balloon-borne capsule 25 miles above the ground.  He sped to earth so fast he broke the sound barrier.  He literally became a human sonic boom.  Then he pulled his ripcord and floated to earth, landing on his feet like it was just another day in the park.

I was fascinated.  But what puzzles me is why people think that the higher you go the scarier or more dangerous it must be.  For sheer mileage, I agree that it was phenomenal.  But the thing is, if your parachute doesn’t open, it really doesn’t matter whether you fall 25 miles or 2500 feet…splat is splat.

I’m not afraid to fly, mind you.  I’ve done some commercial flying.  I’ve even been up in a double, open-cockpit bi-wing and ridden in a hot air balloon.  I’m just not one of those people who really feel they haven’t arrived until they jump out of an airplane.  I don’t think I would hesitate if the plane was likely to crash, but as long as it has no problems, it’s not in my personality to jump out of a perfectly good aircraft. 

I do admire Felix Baumgartner for his leap of faith.  Faith is what it takes to make that jump:  believing your chute will open, you won’t have catastrophic decompression, you won’t freeze to death, you won’t pass out and not regain consciousness until it’s too late to pull the cord.  I would love to possess that kind of faith.  But even if my faith grows, I’m still not jumping out of any airplanes!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

I Did Not Inherit the Shopping Gene…

My father used to love shopping.  He would make lists for the stores he passed on his route home and stop here and there to get the best deals.  My mother was not nearly as avid when it came to shopping.

I hate shopping.  It doesn’t matter whether it’s clothing, appliances, furniture, household goods, food, or staples.  I simply hate shopping.  Clothing is the worst, because you have to try stuff on, and nothing ever looks as good on you as it does on the hanger.  Then you have to visit multiple stores to find what you need.  I have found that if I buy most of my clothes on-line, I have much better luck, spend much less time and money, and I don’t put all those miles on my car.  I suppose if I liked shopping, none of this would be an issue. 

I have an especially hard time shopping at the Mall.  I believe this stems from an episode many years ago when I was looking for a fancy blouse and made the mistake of trying on a bathing suit.  (The funny story of that Mall adventure can be visited if you haven’t read Tiger Boy Strikes Again.)  I don’t have nearly as much anxiety when I’m shopping with a friend, but there are times since that bathing suit episode when I have suffered symptoms (running out of the Mall like my pants were on fire) bordering on agoraphobia while visiting the Mall. 

Today I went to the Mall to shop for clothes for my mother.  I HAD to, because after multiple on-line searches, I discovered that it’s almost impossible to find washable, stretch, elastic-waist pants, in a size 10 petite, short.  Forget the cheap stores, because they only have elastic waists in that size if you’re buying leggings, which are totally inappropriate for someone of her advanced age (not to mention more difficult to put on and take off).  So I spent most of my morning scouring the women’s petite section of Dillard’s.  It was easier shopping for Mom because I was shopping strictly for items…no dressing rooms, undressing, trying on stuff, re-dressing, finding something new and doing it all again.  Amazingly, I managed to find several pairs of pants for Mom!  I was thrilled.  But I was very happy to get out of there.  This was followed by shopping at Babies R Us for a shower gift and shopping at The Vitamin Shoppe.  At least they aren’t at the Mall.  Tomorrow I get to do Sam’s Club, joy of joys.

If I could do ALL my shopping on line, I would never go to a store again!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Ad asphyxiaton and Raptor...Stop the ride, I need to get off!

I’ll never forget the first (and only) time I rode Raptor at Cedar Point Amusement Park.  It was a huge, green, scary-looking coaster.  I love roller coasters, but it had been years since I had ridden one, and Raptor was not like any other coaster in my experience.  My legs were dangling, and I was hanging on for dear life.  Everyone told me to keep my head pressed back into the seat, but the faster it went, the less I was able to press my head backward.  Soon I was sick to my stomach as the ride began violently jerking my head from side to side.  I kept screaming, “Stop the ride, I need to get off!”  My daughter and husband thought it was pretty funny.  I did not.
For the next several hours, I had severe balance issues until I finally sat down and refused to move.  They went on their merry way, riding all those horrid coasters and loving it.  I learned my lesson…no more roller coasters for me.  The ride had literally upset the balance in my inner ear and likely bruised the margins of my brain during the violent head-tossing time.  I’m amazed that people can ride them over and over again without suffering permanent damage.
So here I am, the TV running as background noise while I write, and it occurs to me that this political season is very much like Raptor.  There appear to be three types of voters:  those who keep riding the coaster no matter how dangerous; those who refuse to ride the coaster because they are unwilling to take a chance; and those who give it a try, then stand back, analyze the experience, and consider all the aspects before making a decision. 
As of July, the two opposing campaigns had spent, combined, over a billion dollars for advertising campaigns to either win our votes to “their” side, or convince us not to vote for the “other” side.  I am sure the tally will be close to two billion dollars by Election Day.  I have some news for those running these campaigns.  The majority of the voters are either riders or not riders.  All the money and advertising in the world is not going to change their minds.  So you are wasting billions of dollars attempting to lure that small fraction of voters who give it a try and analyze the results.  Unfortunately for you, those who try and analyze are not easily swayed by campaign rhetoric.  Those who try and analyze do research, seek the facts, and make informed decisions.
I hate to even turn the TV on anymore.  I can’t help being asphyxiated by constant negative ads, lies, fabrications, misrepresentations, and accusations bordering on libel, with such density and rapidity that I wonder how they actually get an entire show into the reserved time slot.
Wouldn’t that two billion dollars be better spent shoring up social security, fixing Medicare, educating our kids and keeping them healthy, helping small business owners, repairing our roads and infrastructure, and creating jobs?  It’s just a thought, mind you.
I would like to propose the following measures in an effort to put this ridiculous roller coaster ride to an end. 

1)    Put a cap on campaign spending.  $10M total for each presidential candidate, not more than $150K for any congressional, senate, of gubernatorial candidate.  Less for locals.

2)    No PAC funding, no special interests.  If caught campaigning with such funds, you are automatically eliminated from running.

3)    No negative campaigning.  No name-calling, misrepresentations, or skewing information to make the opponent look bad.  Anyone caught not speaking the absolute, unvarnished, and untwisted truth about an opponent or an opponent’s record will be charged with libel and barred for life from running for any office.

4)    Lobbying will be a criminal offense.  No elected official will consort or engage in talks or business with any special interest of any kind. 

5)    Elected officials are the servants of the people, not of any other entity.  It is a privilege to serve in our government, not a license to consider yourself royalty or above the laws that the rest of the people are subject to follow.

6)    Laws will be passed one at a time.  No riders, no codicils, no additions will be added to any proposed bill.  The days of the pork barrel will be over.  If you need funding for a project, try putting it before your elected peers as a stand-alone issue and see how far you get.

7)    All elected officials will be subject to the same social security and health care as their constituents.  Having to live with the results of their actions will give them a better appreciation of what is best for the people who trusted and elected them.

It is time to get back to the kind of government that was envisioned by our forefathers…one of the people, by the people, and for the people…because the people are the important part of the democracy equation. 


Monday, October 1, 2012

I Welcome All Comments...

Like most bloggers, I retain the right and ability to moderate comments I receive in response to my postings.  This is something I take seriously.  I post those comments verbatim; what I receive is what is uploaded.

I don't expect everyone, or anyone for that matter, to like what I have to say or how I say it.  I don't expect people to automatically think I am witty, funny, smart, creative, intelligent, or any other complimentary adjective you might apply, nor do I expect anyone to even find what I write to be interesting.

I write for me; I share my words and opinions with anyone who feels the need to read them.  That said, I appreciate and welcome comments and criticism, both complimentary and uncomplimentary, as long as the comments are civil and fit to print.

However, when I receive comments on a blog post that contain name calling, personally derogatory remarks (about me rather than the topic of the post), or comments rife with grammar, spelling, capitalization, and usage errors that would make the comment writer look foolish, chances are I will not post those comments.  Anonymous comments containing any of the aforementioned will not be considered.  After all, if I am brave enough to post what I have to say with my name in lights, the least you can do is have the guts to identify yourself, especially if you expect to be taken seriously.

If you have a serious need to see your inflammatory comments posted on-line, I suggest you write your own blog because your words will not be housed here.

The Management at The Fractured Anecdote

Thursday, September 27, 2012

"Stop it. This is hard."

I have to say, Ann Romney, just shut up and stop complaining about the course you and your husband have chosen to take.  No one forced you to go out on the campaign trail.  You certainly knew you were in for a fight.  You certainly knew that lots of people would choose not to like you or the policies you espouse.  You had to know you would be criticized.  Once again I say, you chose it, so shut up and do it or go home, but don’t complain about how difficult it is to walk the path you’ve chosen. 

I do, however, love the sentiment.  I would give anything to have told today to “stop it,” to not have had today happen.  And it was hard.  But it was not a chosen path.  It was one thrust upon us.  Good people lost their jobs today.  They did nothing wrong.  They are intelligent and highly competent.  They worked diligently and were dedicated to the company that employed them for years.  Through no fault of their own, they were eliminated.  Why?  Because when all other measures don’t balance the bottom line, it gets balanced with staff reductions.

It was an incredibly hard day for me, and I wasn’t among those who are now gone.  Wonderful friends in my group and in my building had a day so much worse than mine.  I wanted to scream “Stop it.  This is hard.”  Instead, I wept as my friends and coworkers left the building carrying unemployment information and severance paperwork. 

So shut up and stop complaining, Ann Romney.  You don’t know what hard is.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Memories of 9-11 - The Horror of the Unanswered Phone

This post is a slightly edited redux of last year's post.  It is one worth repeating.

I was running a few minutes late for work that fateful Tuesday morning, and I pulled into the parking lot just as the announcement came over the air that a passenger liner had stuck the first tower. I grabbed my purse, hurried into the building, and raced to my office. I announced to all who would listen that a plane had hit the Trade Center and everyone started searching the web for information…everyone but me. I was dialing my phone, desperate to reach my son. When the second tower was struck, I dialed faster. 

And so began the worst five hours of my life.

Chris was in New York City on job interviews. We talked before he left, and he had told me that he was very excited to have an interview at 9 a.m. on Tuesday morning in the World Trade Center. He thought it would be a neat place to work. But as we watched news shots of the towers collapsing, mortified at the thought of the massive loss of life, I tried to stay calm as Chris’ cell phone remained unanswered.

Soon the stories were coming in from the Pentagon and about the missing airliner that had come so close to Cleveland before heading toward the White House. I continued to watch in horror, but I kept dialing. My husband got through to me around 11, wanting to know if I had spoken to Chris. By that time, I was on the verge of hysteria. Needless to say, no work was getting done in our office as we all took in the destruction that was unfolding in our virtual backyard.

Around 2:30 in the afternoon, I dialed for the about the thousandth time, and he answered.

“Oh my God, Chris, where have you been? I’ve been calling you for five hours!”

“What’s up, Mom?”

“What’s up? The world is ending! Can’t you look out the windows in Newark and see the smoke?”

“I’m not in Newark.”

“Where are you?”

“I’m in Perry. What’s going on?”

“You don’t know? Terrorists flew planes into the World Trade Center towers around 9 this morning. They both collapsed, killing thousands. The towers are both gone. The Pentagon was hit, too. And a fourth plane crashed in a field in Pennsylvania. I thought YOU were in one of those towers. Didn't you have a job interview this morning?”

There was very long moment of silence.

“Yes, I did, but I finished my Monday interviews early, so I called the guy at the Trade Center and asked if I could come in Monday afternoon instead. He said yes. I interviewed early and headed back to Ohio. I got in around 2:30 in the morning. I didn’t want to wake you or Dad, so I went to Brian’s and crashed there. I just woke up.”

Chris was profoundly affected by that massive tragedy. I am sure that he still wonders about the twist of fate that kept him so far away from that place where he was scheduled to be at that moment.  I am eternally grateful that my son's life was spared on that awful day. 

I experienced five hours of the most intense fear I have ever known waiting for Chris to answer his phone, and I am haunted still by thoughts of the thousands of mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, sisters, brothers, and friends who spent hour after agonizing hour dialing phones that were never answered.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Nothing like a 3-Day Weekend!

It started with me and my cohorts from St. Cyprian’s Choir singing a rousing Star Spangled Banner at the final regular season game at the Captains Stadium. We sang, we ate, we cheered and did the “Tony Dance” as our Lake County Captains overcame the opposition’s lead to win the game 9-3. There was much celebration on the field, not to mention a spectacular fireworks show, as the Captains are heading directly into the playoffs. If you’ve never gone to a Captains game, you’re missing a really fun afternoon or evening.

Saturday was fraught with all the usual tasks. But later in the afternoon, I headed out to Ashtabula for the St. John Class of 1970 birthday party. It was held at the Elks Club on the Lake. I had never been there before, and since the invitation said Lake Road without specifying east or west, my trusty Tom-Tom sent me on a goose chase to North Kingsville. Fortunately, I was finally able to get a friend on the cell (thank you Pam!) and turned around and headed back toward the Harbor. Soon I was on Lake Road West and found the venue without another hitch.

We had a pretty good turnout. About a quarter of the class showed up, some with a guest, some without. Pat Kilker provided the venue and arranged for the birthday cake. Martha Roach organized the help and took care of the details. Tim McCarthy created and sent out the invitations. Tom Timonere, Mike Guerini and friends brought the old band out of the mothballs and provided the musical entertainment (they still know how to rock!). The Elks kept the food and libations coming, and a great time was had by all!

I was particularly outgoing (it wasn’t the wine, honest!), and because there were people we didn’t know milling about, I offered to just go up to someone, shake his hand, say “it’s good to see you again” and then walk away. I understand the look on the poor guy’s face was priceless, and he spent the rest of the evening trying to figure out who I was and why he didn’t remember me. I came clean before the end of the night and told him I was very pleased to make his acquaintance. 

I also dragged Pat Kilker up to the microphone and we led the class in a rousing rendition of “Gaudeamus Igitur” in honor of our Latin/French teacher. She had always called it the Song of the Latin Students. Had I known the literal translation, I might have refrained. The first two verses are as follows...the rest of the verses are rather rambling and somewhat non-sensical to my way of thinking.

Let us therefore rejoice,
While we are young;
After our youth,
After a troublesome old age
The ground will hold us.
Our life is brief,
It will shortly end
Death comes quickly,
Cruelly snatches us;
No-one is spared.

Tom and Mike were also gracious enough to let me steal the mic to do a few songs for the crowd. I’m hoping those few songs were more comforting and more enjoyable (or at least, less morbid!).

Sunday brought the annual Baumert Labor Day weekend picnic. Laurie opens her house to friends, family, and coworkers and everyone brings incredible food. We talk, play games and catch up with people who come and go all day and into the evening. I have been making a killer stuffed portabella mushroom of late and decided it might translate into a casserole. It turned out very tasty. But what I discovered later was that it made one hell of a dip with tortilla chips! I may have to bottle the stuff.

On Monday, Meredith, my cousin Diane and I went to the Ohio Celtic and International Fall Fest at the Lake County Fair Grounds. It was hot and humid, and we found shelter from the sun in the vendor buildings. We listened to the music of Mossy Moran and the Willis Clan. Meredith and Diane had Irish Nachos (made with potatoes rather than tortilla chips, of course), and I settled for bread pudding with whiskey sauce (incredibly filling and enough carbs for the month of September all by itself).

We hung around a while as I discovered that Lost State of Franklin was scheduled to play. It was good to see Scott and Tyler again. They have a terrific band. If you get the chance, check out their website, buy their CDs and go see them perform. You just can’t help but like their music.

And now, back to work!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Serenity of Bottling Wine...

In the quest to experience less chaos and find more Zen in my life, I have concluded that I really enjoy the making and bottling of wine.   There is something calming about the bottling process.  It has a rhythm to it, like music.  Think waltz:  rinse, sterilize, drain; fill, cork, cap; heat-shrink, label, box; one, two, three; one, two, three; one, two, three.

Perhaps it is because it requires less thought, and the action of it is more by rote.  Perhaps it is because the rhythm of it reminds me of music.  Perhaps it is just the extreme and complete 180 from my normal frantic pace.  Whatever it is, it gives me a sense of calm and tranquility.  It also gives me a tasty bonus when the time comes to uncork and enjoy!

Last Thursday I bottled a batch of Amarone.  It is a double-fermented, dry, Italian red with a wonderful fruity overtone.  It is a bit raw coming out of the carboy, but 12 months from now, I will be singing its praises as it slides over my palate and down my throat like expensive silk.

When I was finished with bottling, I proceeded to make three batches of Christmas wine.  It is so easy when you make it at a great micro-winery like Your Vine or Mine in Painesville.  I mix it right there.  They take care of the day-to-day work, like filtering.  Six weeks later, I come back and bottle the wine.  Fruit wines, like the ones I make for Christmas gifts, are ready to drink as soon as they are bottled, but I like mine aged a little, so I make it in early August, bottle in mid-September, take home the spoils, and my Christmas gift list is 90% crossed off!  Where else can you find a decent gift for friends, family, and co-workers, etc. for less than the cost of a movie ticket?

No one turns down a bottle of wine.  Even if they are a teetotaler, they can re-gift it or serve it to dinner guests.  I can’t tell you how many times a wine recipient has told me that after serving my wine, a guest wanted to know where to buy a case.  That kind of review speaks for itself!  Designing your own label is fun and creative.  It gives the gift a personal touch. 

Of course, if you want to make a straight wine, like a Reisling or a Merlot, then you need to do it now to give the wine sufficient time to age before the holidays.  Otherwise you have to tell the recipient to wait until a certain period of time has passed before they can pour it for dinner.

This is the fifth time I have made “holiday” wine, and I have to say it has gone a long way toward relieving the stress of finding the perfect holiday gift.  I highly recommend Your Vine or Mine, where you can find your own little bit of Zen, and take care of your holiday gift list at the same time!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Urge to Purge...

Years ago, when I was much heavier than I am now, I used to joke that I was a “dysfunctional” bulimic.  It isn’t as if functional bulimia isn’t in itself a dysfunction.  I was “dysfunctional” because I had the binging half down pat, but I couldn’t manage the purging half to save my life.  Even today, no matter how miserable and sick I might feel, I just can’t manage to “purge” in such a fashion.

However, purging takes many forms.  I am convinced that my current need to purge my living and working spaces of extraneous paper, equipment, old and unused electronics, and power supplies for old cell phones is a desperate response to my feelings of chaos at work.

As my work life seemingly spirals more and more out of my control, I respond in greater kind by attempting to simplify my home environment.  I have an uncontrollable need for orderly, clean, and clutter free rooms.  I want to walk into a space and not be overwhelmed with “stuff” everywhere.

I feel the need for Zen-like peace and simplicity.  And so I am purging.  Now, if I could only achieve the Zen-like peace at work…

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Anderson Cooper - Through the Looking Glass

“We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their CREATOR with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.” --The Declaration of Independence

Anderson Cooper, widely respected news journalist, took the official leap over the closet threshold and announced that he is gay. After years of rumor, nasty gossip, and wild speculation, he must be relieved to finally put the talk to rest.

What I fail to understand is why anyone should care about, much less need or want to know, the nature of his sexual orientation.

Anderson is an intelligent, educated and well-spoken journalist. He is handsome, articulate and thoughtful. He has charm and presence and can hold his own in any interview. Despite his Vanderbilt heritage, he seems to be a well adjusted, adequately rounded individual. He works for a living, and has put himself in harm’s way time after time reporting from the scenes of tragedies and war zones in far-off places.

Quite frankly, I like him. He is easy to watch, easy to listen to, never offensive like some other personalities. I like his perspective. He does not sink to yellow journalism. He isn’t afraid to show his feelings. He is true to himself in his work, rather than reporting like some emotionless deity from on high. His reporting standards are above the cut, so it is a pleasure to invite him into my home as both an information disseminator and an entertainer.

I have no interest in what he does in the privacy of his home, and I expect he doesn’t give a damn what I do in mine. That is as it should be.

I remember when I informed my elderly mother that some friends of mine were a gay couple. She reacted exactly as I anticipated for someone of her generation. Then, after she met them, she decided that she really liked them. From that point on, she would always ask about “the boys”. “How are the boys doing?” “I really like them.” “Have you seen the boys today?” A few weeks ago, in one of her more lucid moments, she said, “How are the boys doing? You know I never think of them as gay. They’re just the boys.” I replied, “That’s exactly how you should be thinking of them, Mom. People are people. We’re all just people.”

I wonder if I will live to see enough softening of the human heart to rid the world of such irrational and long-held prejudices. People are people. We think, we breathe, we bleed, we laugh, we cry, we live and die. Everything else is just icing on the cake. Our differences are the icing, the decoration, the stuff that makes us interesting. Whether it be personality, color, religion, sexuality, career, age, talent or any of a million things, our icing should be the glue that holds us together, not the thing that keeps us apart. We should be free to share our frosting with the world or hold it close, as we choose.

Anderson Cooper has been harangued into sharing some of his frosting. The shame is that in order to live his life in peace, he had to share what he obviously preferred to hold close. No one should have to do that. Hopefully making an official statement will result in Anderson Cooper finding some peace. I find it very sad that he, or anyone for that matter, has to resort to such an action at all.

Therefore I repeat:

“We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their CREATOR with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.” --The Declaration of Independence

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Back at it...

Well, I lived through my first week back at work. Going from medical leave to full time is like going from roller skates to a Porsche…walk, limp, walk, limp, then suddenly run like your pants are on fire. Of course, that first 40-hour week was accompanied by choir practice, multiple visits to Mom’s place, a writing meeting, etc. By Friday at 5 p.m. I was totally wrung out. I crashed after work, slept until 9 a.m. Saturday morning, and it still took the better part of two hours to get my engine in gear.

When I left my writing meeting on Tuesday night, I drove East from Lakewood, with my stomach growling. I hadn’t had anything to eat since lunch, and all I could think about was Mama Roberto’s meatballs and sauce. My foot fell heavy on the gas in an effort to get to Mentor before they closed. I made it with five minutes to spare and ordered a side of meatballs and marinara to go. Then I got in my car and drove down Mentor Avenue, eating meatballs and sauce at every traffic light. It was a miracle my clothing remained stain free. This late night dining on the run incident typified my week.

I fear week two won’t be much better. Welcome back to the real world, Betsy!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

And just how do you define "blunder"

I was watching ABC World News Tonight, and Diane Sawyer was talking about J.P. Morgan’s 2-billion dollar blunder. I got to thinking about that. 

I handle the finances in the house, and I am sure that if I made a misjudgment that caused a loss of 200 dollars in my account, I would be mortified, upset and worried. But I think I could rightfully admit that a 200-dollar loss would be considered a blunder, an error, a mistake. I would also be relieved that my “blunder” hurt no one but me.

Calling a 2-billion dollar loss a blunder is an egregious gaffe. A 2-billion dollar loss is a grievous and catastrophic misuse of other people’s money. It is not an error and it is not a mistake. It is another example of the greedy bankers mishandling money that they have been charged with protecting.

Until we start making those same said greedy ones pay back every dime from their own ill-gotten gains, it will continue.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Horseshoe Casino

No, I haven’t been there yet. My comment is limited to the news coverage. A woman from the casino was interviewed prior to the opening and made comments about watching the clientele for symptoms of gambling addiction. The next interview was with a woman who looked about 60, with no teeth, who came all the way from Buffalo to try the new casino.

All I can say is…you have money to gamble but not for the dentist? If that is not a symptom of gambling addiction, I don’t know what is.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Politics, the bedroom, and democracy...

I know everyone won’t agree with me, but I think politicians on both sides of the fence need to stay the hell out of the bedrooms of American citizens. Quite frankly, it’s none of their business what consenting adults do behind closed doors. This country is suffering a nasty economy, with too much war, not enough jobs, high prices, lack of medical care, needy children, needy seniors and general instability. Elected officials are supposed to work together for the betterment of this nation; that is their job. Telling me who I can or cannot sleep with or who I can or cannot marry is not included in that job description.

I am tired of the sniping, accusations, in-fighting, and mud-slinging. Stop, already. You officials were elected to work for us, not against us. Stop trying to legislate every aspect of our personal lives and get on with the important stuff. Our founding fathers put forth a constitution meant to protect the citizens of this great country and ensure our freedoms. I am positive the signers of the constitution are looking down on the body of the Congress, the Senate, and the members of both parties with anger and disgust as personal greed and the quest for power taint every single thing that happens in Washington.

Although I am a registered Democrat, I have never voted the party line in ignorance. I follow the candidates and vote for the person I feel is most qualified and has shown that he or she has our interests at heart, rather than his or her own. For example, I voted for George Herbert Walker Bush. I thought he was an excellent president. I did not vote for George W. Bush, who I personally thought was ill suited to represent our country on a global stage. I did not, however, send scathing, derogatory e-mails or make nasty hate-mongering posts about him. Do you know why? Because personal feelings aside, he was the President of the United States. Liking him or not liking him really didn’t matter. He was the President, and by virtue of the office, deserved the respect of the citizens of the United States, myself included.

President Obama deserves the same respect, whether you voted for him or not; whether you agree with him or not, whether you like him or not. For better or for worse, he is our President, and by virtue of the office deserves our respect. I can’t begin to describe the irritation I feel when I receive nasty e-mails or see posts referring to our President as “presidunce” or other derogatory terms. I don’t pass them on, and I don’t repost them. I didn’t do that with the nasty stuff I received about President Bush either.

What happened to common human decency? Is this the way your parents taught you to act toward authority figures? Spreading hate is not the way for this country to turn itself around. Treating everyone with respect doesn’t make you a sheep. If you disagree with the politics, you are free to cast your vote. That is the basis of democracy. We need get back to it and soon.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

When writing takes a back seat...

Everyone has something that they truly like doing. Some like sports; some like acting; some like reading…you get my drift. When they indulge themselves in their pursuits, they find comfort and a modicum of satisfaction that they can’t find elsewhere. I get that feeling from writing. So why is it that when I put off something else to get writing accomplished I feel guilty, as though I am being selfish by putting my need to write above other things?

It’s always, I can’t write until the laundry is done, the dishes are cleaned, the groceries are purchased, the checks are written for the bills. My office is too messy, I have to make that phone call…”my life goes on in endless song, above earth’s lamentations.”

At one time or another, all creatives feel their work is undervalued. Sometimes that is a self-imposed feeling, sometimes it is a lack of self worth, and sometimes it is the result of undue criticism. Once at a family gathering, I was seeking help in naming a book I had written. When I explained what the book was about, someone said, “Who the hell would want to read that?”

Now I’m not what you would call a bible scholar, but I went home from that gathering and starting looking for a particular quote. When I found it, I printed it out and posted it directly over the computer screen, where I could see it every time I sat down to write. If you are a creative, I suggest you do the same.

Mark 6:4 "A prophet is honored everywhere, except in his hometown, among his relatives, and in his own house."

Perfect strangers loved the book, but this relative placed its value at less than nothing. Deep down, these kinds of comments whittle away at your self esteem and self worth. They make you wonder if that thing you love doing is worth the time you spend doing it, and they make you wonder if that thing you love doing is at least as important as the mundane stuff that needs to be done.

Stop wondering. Make time for that thing you love doing. If you are criticized, ignore it. Even the bible tells you to expect no respect from your family. Expand. Take your creations to those who don’t know you and don’t judge you by some preconceived set of standards. I’m not saying you won’t get criticism, but at least it will be criticism of the actual creation and not criticism of you based on familiarity.

And now, back to my writing!