Friday, December 18, 2015

Conquering the "List"

I normally don’t do a “what I did today” blog.  This is the exception.  I stayed home this morning, and after making my typical breakfast sandwich, I set a list of tasks and times on my Action Machine.  In that 4-hour space:

1)            I cleaned my office work table of excess paper and detritus, then
2)            I printed out postcards for the eight people in my project,
3)            I made labels for all my Christmas cards and got them written out and ready to mail,
4)            I went through my bill box and wrote checks for what was due.
Then I got cleaned up and dressed and headed out for the running part of the day.

5)            That included the post office to buy stamps and mail the morning’s work, then
6)            a trot into Mentor where I picked up a few things at GFS,
7)            a wee bit of food and drink,
8)            a stop at Catherine’s to pick up an order I had shipped-to-store,
9)            a stop at Staples to get special labels for Meredith’s new homemade lip scrub and lip gloss,
10)        a quick hit at Aldi for gift bags,
11)        a stop at the bank,
12)        a stop at Convenient for much needed liquid caffeine, then
13)        picked up dinner at Glenda’s. 
14)        I made a double batch of raisin cookie dough after dinner, and
15)        after I finish this blog post
16)        I will finish my gift wrapping
17)        And print up Meredith’s labels (she has a craft show on Sunday)

All in all, it was a most productive day!  I just hope I can be as successful in my tasks the rest of the weekend.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Let's NOT take this road...

I saw a meme on Facebook yesterday.  It read “If you cross the North Korean border illegally, you get 12 years of hard labor. If you cross the Afghanistan border illegally, you get shot. Two Americans got 8 years for crossing into Iran.  If you cross the U.S. border illegally, you get a job, a driver’s license, food stamps, a place to live, health care, child benefits, education and tax fee business income for 7 years? No wonder we are a country in debt!”  It urged everyone to share it. It was created by an organization called
I immediately wondered if the person who came up with such a brilliant comparison realized how utterly ridiculous it sounds.

The first thing that occurred to me was that the writer was urging the U.S. to act in the same brutal, heinous, violent, and inhumane way that North Korea, Afghanistan, and Iran act toward immigrants (not to mention their own their own population).  Let’s not forget that most of the brutality issues in those countries stem from tribe fighting tribe or religion trying to eradicate other religions.  Sounds hauntingly like Adolph Hitler, his rabid followers, and the extermination of millions.
The actual demographic data of non-combatant lives lost during the holocaust include the following:

6 million Jews (all countries)
5-7 million Ukrainians
3.3 Russian POWs
2 million Russian civilians
3 million Poles
1.5 million Yugoslavians
½ million Gypsies
¼ million mentally or physically disabled
5K Jehovah’s Witnesses
Tens of thousands homosexuals
Tens of thousands Spanish Republicans
Anyone considered socially, racially, or politically undesirable (Jews, Blacks, Gypsies, criminals, prostitutes, homosexuals, and mental patients, socialists, communists, pacifists, anti-Nazi refugees from Germany and Austria
, and anyone else they just didn’t like.)

The problem with picking on one ethnic or religious group, such as Mexicans, or Syrians, or Muslims is that it never stops there.  Hitler led the German people by making them believe that the Jews were their enemy and all the problems with their lives could be blamed on the Jews.  He made them believe, or at least look the other way, in the hope that elimination of that one group would make German lives better.  But he didn’t stop there.  It was one “common enemy” after another, as seen in the list above, and the citizens of Germany believed the lies and followed like sheep.  The Nazis stripped all those people they killed of their wealth and possessions, but none of those billions ever filtered back down to the citizens.  Their lives did not get better, no matter how many “undesirables” they murdered.
Right now, the far right and the religious right are stirring up their constituents in the same way Hitler stirred up the citizens of Germany.  It is not the Mexicans, or the Syrians, or those of the Muslim faith we should fear.  It is those that seek to profit from the misery of our citizens.  By giving the people a “common enemy” and telling us that all our problems stem from immigrants and non-Christians, they are doing EXACTLY what Adolph Hitler did.

We cannot afford to take that path.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it

I was mortified by the story of the Chicago TV station that used the yellow star of David, a Nazi emblem the European Jews were forced to wear so they could easily be herded onto trains for the death camps, in a Happy Yom Kippur story.  Obviously we have learned nothing from the past.

We are being overtaken by younger generations who are ignorant of the incredible amount of hard work that was required to get us to the place we are today.  I was at a writing meeting last night and a young member voiced her opinion that she was tired of hearing about what women and African Americans had gone through years ago and that they should “get over it already.”
I wanted to deck the poor kid, but instead, I tried my best to make her understand that the past should NEVER be “gotten over,” and indeed, needs to be remembered vividly and accurately.  She looked at me quizzically as I described what women my age had to tolerate from society and what women had sacrificed to make sure that she could get whatever job she wanted, be better paid, and have legal recourse for issues in her life that we didn’t have 50 years ago.

I tried to make her understand that discrimination was discrimination regardless of the genre:  gender, race, religion, sexual preference, or citizen status.  I pointed out that repression was unforgivable, and being ignorant of or forgetting that people died and suffered for the freedoms we have right now is unacceptable.

I hope she remembers what I said, because our history is not something we have to “get over already.”  It is something we need to hang onto for dear life, so we don’t get sucked into repeating its atrocities.

Friday, September 11, 2015

An attempt to keep myself far, so good

In the 12 days since I returned from Middle Bass Island, I have managed to increase the word count in the novel by 8,000 words.  I was shooting for 500 words/day, but although I have skipped a day here and there, I am averaging 667 words/day.  My goal is to hit the total word count by the end of September, then give it to a few of my “readers with red pens” to see what they can find and to offer me their suggestions.  Once corrections have been made, and all suggestions taken under advisement, I’ll ship the manuscript off to Liz Petry for a once over.  In spite of the fact that I am neither Jane Austen nor Tony Hillerman, I am certain she will read it with a critical editor’s eye.
I know, I know.  I once had a publisher take a book on because she not only loved the content, but she didn’t find a single error in the entire manuscript.  I can be pretty anal about my writing.  But even I make typos, and the eye sees what the mind thinks it wrote.  Self-editing can be an excruciating task.  Generally, you have to step away from the manuscript for weeks, or even months, before you can distance yourself enough to edit your own writing properly.  In this instance, I want the book in print before the holidays so people can buy it for gifting; therefore, I need all the editing help and suggestions I can garner.

I will be absolutely ecstatic if I can have the book up on Amazon for purchase by November 1.  That entails a good bit of work between now and then, but I promised Steve FitzGerald I would keep up with my social networking sites, sooooooo, I guess I’ll be posting here, Tweeting, Facebooking, and Linking-in as well as writing, editing, and working full time.  It should be an interesting fall.  Oh, and there is the small matter of making notes and outlining Book 2 in this series!  I think I’m going to have to be a bit more disciplined about sleeping.  Feel free to ask me how I'm progressing...guilt can be a wonderful thing!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Sad reflection will remain an annual journey for far too many...

I hate this night.  Each year I dread it with an intensity that causes my stomach to roil and my head to ache.  I usually handle my demons by reiterating my 9/11 story, but not this year.  If anyone wants to read it, they have only to search back through the blog to 9/11/14 or 9/11/13 or…

But tonight, I can’t get my mind off those left behind:  the parents who should never have outlived their children, the children growing up without parents or grandparents, the husbands and wives still trying to reinvent their lives as singles or with new partners they had never even met those many years ago.  The heartbreak goes far beyond Manhattan, or the East Coast, or the Pentagon, or a lonely field in Pennsylvania.  My heart hurts when I think of those who lost someone on 9/11 unable to sleep tonight, perhaps crying until the tears can no longer flow.
I can’t help but recall the eerie silence in the following days, when not a single plane graced the sky and not a single vapor trail patterned the horizon.  It was as if the whole country had stopped to regain its breath and its perspective.  I’m not sure we managed the perspective part.
Sadly, the legacy of 9/11 continues as the responders fall to illnesses undoubtedly caused by exposure to smoke and debris and the death toll continues to rise. 

To all who read this, I encourage you to send your warmest thoughts and prayers to those left behind, and to those who came to the aid of the victims that are paying such a high price for their heroism.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Once again, I have returned home from a highly productive week at the President's Cottage on Middle Bass Island, owned by fellow member Steve FitzGerald. I made huge inroads on a novel that I now hope will be finished by the end of September. Steve's opinions and advice were instrumental in many of the decisions I made as to where the novel was taking the reader...and where it was taking me. 

There is no place that I have written with more inspiration, or accomplished as much toward my writing goals, as I have in my solo retreats on Middle Bass Island. If you are serious about completing a project, I highly recommend that you start now by setting aside a few dollars each week in a writing fund, and take advantage of what Steve is offering. You won't regret it!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Drug Testing Controversy - We Need a Closer Look

I've been watching this debacle closely for some time. I think it is a mistake, because not only does it seem that the premise flawed, but the numbers don't prove out the theory.

1) There are people complaining that it is OK to drug test people who work for their money but not those who don't? 

First, our tax money is not paying for the drug testing of those who are applying for or working at jobs where the EMPLOYER has mandated testing. This is not the government wanting applicants tested.  It is the EMPLOYER and accordingly, the EMPLOYER pays for it. 

When the state drug tests welfare recipients or applicants, WE pay for it.

Second, this comparison is similar to, for example, all attorneys have to take the bar exam to practice law, but those who had to take that exam feel it's unfair that everyone doesn't have to take that same bar exam, even when they have no desire to practice law. 

Or, I have to endure the pain and humiliation of taking a drug test because my employer demands it, so even people who are not qualified to hold my job, and are not trying to take my job from me in some sort of revolt, should be made to suffer the same humiliation that I agreed to endure as a condition of my employment. For those who have never had to rely on public assistance, even for a short time, I can tell you it is an incredibly humbling experience in itself. Adding forced drug testing makes having to ask for help even more painful.

2) If we can believe the numbers being reported by independent bean counters, the national drug use rate is approximately 9.5 percent of ALL people working and not working. But testing of welfare recipients / applicants in states that mandate testing shows that, while the rate of positive drug tests in welfare applicants ranged from 0.002% to 8.3%, in all states but one, the rate of positive drug tests was less than 1%. That's 8.5% LOWER than the national average. 

As in most cases where the government overspends our tax dollars on the ridiculous, these states have collectively spent nearly $1 million on the effort, and will spend many millions more in coming years. So where exactly does the "massive abuse" of our system end up?  With the state, of course. They will raise our taxes to perform unnecessary testing on people who have a rate of drug abuse significantly lower than the general population.  It's like the proverbial beating of the dead horse.

Yes, there will always be those unethical types that try to game the system, no matter what the system is. A determined enough criminal will find a way to cheat or steal, but that does not justify punishing the other 99% who are not.

Personally, I'd rather see our tax money spent in our schools and on our deteriorating infrastructure. At least we would see something that actually benefits the people, creating decent paying jobs and fixing what needs to be fixed. Perhaps we should stop taking out our frustrations on the poor and powerless and create jobs that pay enough to help them move back into productive society.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Second Annual Writing Weekend

After having such a wonderful time last year, my friend, Liz Petry, and I each packed our cars and headed across the country to meet in the middle.  That midpoint, via the Southern Tier (I-80), is Williamsport, Pennsylvania.  We each had traffic difficulties with construction zones.  I hit the road at 10:30 a.m. and had passed only two exits on I-90 before I ended up in a nasty, full-stop traffic jam.  I lost at least half an hour before I hit Route 11.  Once I turned East on I-80 it was one construction zone after another.  I finally arrived at the hotel around 5 p.m., which means my 4.5 hour trip took 6.5 hours.

After I got settled in, Liz and I went to Peter Herdic House for dinner.  The parmesan crusted shrimp was quite tasty, but I had to settle for spinach salad as they were out of fresh local cherries for the salad listed on the website menu.  One of these days, I’ll get there while the cherries are still in season.

It was bloody hot all weekend, and frankly, I’m not quite sure how Liz went running without dropping like a rock on the hot pavement, even early in the morning.  Just walking the 4 or 5 blocks to Herdic House, Rumrunners, and Bullfrog Brewery was extremely taxing in the high temps and stifling humidity.
We took a break from our writing and researching activities on Saturday night to visit Wine and Design, an art studio that offers painting parties and paint-n-sip classes for the public.  The painting of the day was an old anchor in an old shed.  It was rather fun, but I have to admit that I can’t draw straight lines with a brush even when I’m not imbibing in a lovely Barolo.

On Sunday night, after another day of writing activities, we braved the heat to walk to dinner at the Bullfrog Brewery.  They had gorgeous copper and stainless tanks, and the food was quite tasty.  We passed a gift shop (Gustonian Gifts) that had interesting locally sourced stuff in the windows, so I decided to delay my departure on Monday and peruse the shop.  I bought a beautiful walking stick for Jim.  It was numbered by the artist and had some lovely wood burnings and relief carvings.

It was a terrific weekend.  Both Liz and I made progress on our writing projects, and we had the chance to get a good visit in as well.  For those writers who can’t seem to get anything done at home, I highly recommend that you get away, alone or with a writing friend, and get your word counts up.  There are many options for low-cost accommodations, even a cabin in the woods.  As long as it has electricity to keep your laptop running, you’re good to go. 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

One nation under one flag...

I’m an American.  I was born and raised in Ohio along the Southern shore of Lake Erie.  I have ALWAYS considered displaying of the confederate battle flag to be an openly defiant and blatantly unpatriotic act.  It represents a confederation of Southern states that chose to separate themselves from the United States of America.
There were other causes for the rift between the North and South, but the biggest reason was money, another word for slavery.  Southern property owners needed slaves.  Free labor meant more money.  Why pay for employees when you can buy a slave and work them to death for years without ever paying a penny in wages?  They considered slaves as property, as less than human, as undeserving of human dignity.  This did not stop those same owners from raping their women slaves and making them bear their offspring.

When the Civil War ended, the United States retained its unity, though to say that all were in agreement would be a gross exaggeration of the facts.  For those in the South, only the machinations of war ended…the violence, hate and resentment did not.  The slaves were emancipated, but many Southerners, angry at their defeat, spent the next 150 years working hard to make sure that slaves and their descendants were treated as though they were beneath contempt.
People of African descent were harassed, tortured, lynched, humiliated and segregated by those who felt superior.  Southerner’s hate toward those they considered beneath them was palpable.  They started secret organizations, burned crosses in the yards of African Americans, refused them entry to public transportation, and would not eat in the same restaurants, or drink from the same fountains, or let their kids attend the same schools.  This vile hate has crept into all corners of the country.  Parents, brainwashed by their own prejudiced parents and grandparents, keep passing that hate downward to new generations, and as those generations move from place to place they spread the hate.
The confederate battle flag is a symbol of that hate.  Like the nazi swastika, it represents everything we as human beings should abhor.  It belongs in a museum so we don’t forget, but it should never fly in this country again.  It should certainly never fly over or near any public or government building.  And it should never fly higher than the American flag...ever. 

I don’t know about the rest of the nation, but I am tired of seeing innocent Americans die for the color of their skin.  Genetically we are all the same.  We are all one species on this planet.  Marking one for violence because of the color of their skin is the same as beating up all the short people, or all the tall people, or all the redheads, or all brunettes with blue eyes.  When you strip away the physical characteristics that make us individuals, we all consist of the same thing underneath…blood and bone, organs and DNA.  We are all the same.  

Why are we killing our own?  When will we stop killing our own?

Monday, May 25, 2015

On this Memorial Day

For my uncles who died in WWII and are buried in Europe, Paul Boyle and Jim Madden, and for my great uncles Joseph Love and Pat Madden who served in WWI, my father Joseph Boyle and my uncles Pete Madden, Tom Madden, Jude Madden and John Boyle who served in WWII and/or Korea, and for all those who have or still do place their lives in peril for our freedom, I dedicate the following verse, written by John McCrae during WWI in May 1915.
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
the larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead.  Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
in Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe,
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Chuck Collins - Another Life Lost to Cancer

Well, sports fans, I’ve been pretty lax in getting my blog posts written.  I know it’s been a while in coming.  Hopefully, you have been delving back into old posts to amuse yourselves, because there are plenty of funny stories in the archives.

Funny blogs aside, I would like to say a few words about an old friend who passed yesterday after a long struggle with brain cancer.  The legendary Chuck Collins has joined countless musicians, producers, publishers, disc jockeys, and radio personalities on the other side.  I have to wonder if they are up there spinning tunes for the almighty.  Chuck, you will be missed.  Your wonderful personality, your caring and giving, and your infectious smile will be missed, not only by me, your friends and your fans, but by your lovely Monika and your family.  Heaven is now enriched with your presence, but down here, the light grew a little dimmer.  Rest in peace.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Body Image - Perfection is where you are right now!

I started life with poor body image.  The first things I remember about how I looked as a child stem from those typical awful words slung back and forth between siblings.  Lollipop Legs was a good one.  It was an overblown description of my legs being thin below the knee and bigger above.  My particular favorite was that when I was wearing a pink bathing suit cover-up, I was told that I looked like the “pink dancing hippos” from Disney’s Fantasia.  When they tell you that harsh words don’t hurt, don’t believe them.  I was so traumatized by the “pink dancing hippos” gem that I refused to wear pink, clear into my 40s.
Sadly, when I look back at photos of us as kids, I was no bigger than my sister.  I didn’t really have a weight problem.  But the perception that I had a problem, that I wasn’t the perfect size, became completely ingrained in my young and malleable psyche.  I suffered from what I call “fat brain” syndrome.  I began drastic dieting very early on, resulting in a damaged metabolism and rebound weight gain that always exceeded what I had lost.  In essence, I dieted my way up the scale, failing time after time to be perfect.

And as if it isn’t bad enough to hate your own image, it doesn’t help when those without weight issues make nasty comments or treat you as though the size of your intellect is inversely proportional to the size of your body.  I can’t tell you the number of times people went out of their way to degrade me in public or to talk to me as though I had the IQ of a watermelon.  This is not limited to walking down the street.  It happens in stores, restaurants, parking lots, schools, playgrounds, and in the workplace. 

I was very heavy when I started my present job many years ago.  Only when I lost half my body weight did I start commanding any respect from my superiors.  Prior to that, I was ignored when I spoke and no one asked me any questions.  They evidently assumed that since I was fat I must be stupid.
I even had a doctor once tell me, with a straight face, that she could not perform laparoscopic surgery on my ovaries because I didn’t have a naval (I had lost it in a previous surgery).  I wanted to say, “Oh my God, does that mean I can’t have that laparoscopic knee surgery either?”  Every word that came out of that particular doctor’s mouth was as though she was talking to a complete idiot.  Needless to say, I never went back.
When Forest Ratliff and I were performing regularly at the coffee shops and wineries, I often sang a parody song called “New Bod” to the music of “Cool Stuff” (with permission of course).  “CoolStuff” is a catchy tune from the album "Homework" by the legendary Alex Bevan, listing all the things he would buy if he ever got rich or won the lottery.  “New Bod” was a listing of all the plastic surgery fixes I would have if I could afford them.  Both songs are pretty funny tunes.  But, while everyone has things they would buy if they suddenly had money, only those with poor body image would want plastic surgery instead.

But enough meandering around the topic.  I’ve seen a number of articles and videos recently where people are being bullied for their weight.  I feel great sympathy for those in the public eye, such as Kelly Clarkson, who has a great attitude, but must be completely inundated with nasty tweets and comments.  A weather woman was “twullied” when she didn’t lose all the weight after her baby was born.  Is it really that offensive to the viewer if the weather woman isn’t a runway model?

It isn’t always the result of overeating.  Those with weight issues don’t seem to understand that there are many reasons for the rest of us to not look svelte.  It can be genetic predisposition, medication, damaged or sluggish metabolism, injuries that prevent adequate exercise, etc.  But even if it isn’t one of those things, why exactly is it anyone’s business other than the person’s own?

It comes down to this.  Right here and right now you are the perfect person you are meant to be.  If you lose a few pounds, you are still the perfect person you are meant to be.  If you gain a bit, the same applies.  What’s happening on the outside is not a reflection of what is inside of you.  You are the same person, with the same laugh, the same smile, the same level of intelligence, the same talent, whether you weigh 120, 220, or 320.  If someone puts you down, lift your head high and walk away.  Do not lower yourself to their level.  Smile and know that the person who just dissed you has severe self-esteem issues and is attempting to make himself or herself feel better at your expense. 

And now you can have a giggle at my expense!

New Bod!

Some say life is good and sweet
Some think toys make life complete
But they’re not lookin’ in my mirror each day
‘Cause for every week gone by
There’s some things that catch my eye
That make me want to call the doc and say…

Chorus:  Gimme a new bod, one that’s long and lean
Gimme a new bod, Like nothin’ you’ve ever seen
Fix me up from head to toe
My plastic surgeon’s rolling in dough
Gimme a new bod, one I'm not afraid to show.

Take a little nip here and a little tuck there
Lift my boobs and derriere
Make my form more pleasing to the eye
Some liposuction please
So I fill my Calvin Klein’s with ease
And make men turn their heads when I walk by.

So take these jiggles from my knees
And laser my legs if you please
And I won’t ever have to shave again
Take the thunder from both thighs
Remove these bags below my eyes
And put a mini implant in my chin.

A tummy tuck would sure be sweet
Those 6-pack abs are buried deep
A redone belly button would be quite nice
Lift my neck to make me sing
And upper arms without bat wings
Would certainly be well worth the price.

Give me a Lopez butt and Jolie lips
Tina Turner legs and gypsy hips
A bod makeover down to my last toe
I want to fit in a size five
and finally feel alive
Write a book about it all, and be on Oprah’s show

Sunday, April 5, 2015

A Very Long (apologies) Easter Reflection

I sometimes rant on about politics, but I usually don’t rant about religion.  I’m going to try not to rant, but if I do, I ask in advance for your tolerance (or forgiveness) as the case may be.

Politically, I have issues with those who live and practice the extremes.  Those on the far political left are anti-religion and in full insistence on separation of church and state.  Those on the far political right quote religion, using their moral beliefs to back-up their political stance on issues, the nature of which I’m not sure should even be considered “political.”
I am first and foremost a human being sharing this planet with other equally human beings.  I belong to the Catholic Church, which means I am a Christian.  For those who think those two things are mutually exclusive, Catholicism is the oldest Christian religion on earth and the precursor to all the Christian religions that have followed.  Christianity began in the Middle East, as a revolutionary off-shoot of Judaism, led by Jesus of Nazareth and carried on by his disciples.  The Old Testament stories that so many people quote as justification for their actions were not stories of Christianity but of the Israelites, people of the early Jewish faith.

Today is Easter, the day the Christian world celebrates the resurrection of Jesus after he was crucified.  And here I will begin.  Jesus was a rebel.  He preached a religious belief that was different from his fellow Jews and vastly different from the Romans who ruled the land at the time.  Romans had many gods, but for the most part, we remember them as a godless, warrior society.  Judaism was monotheistic…as in only one god, Yahweh.  Don’t forget, Jesus himself was born a Jew.  Other than preaching monotheism, one god the Father, what he did and said went against most of what he had been taught.
He attracted quite a following, and the leadership of the Jewish faith began to feel threatened; their power over the masses was diminishing.  They wanted to be rid of him, so they manufactured reasons to present him to the Romans for execution.  The Romans wanted nothing to do with it.  To them, this was a family squabble, a rift between two factions of Judaism.  In the end, they relented, if for no other reason than to have the situation resolved so they could move on to other things.  In having the Romans perform the actual crucifixion, the Jewish leadership could then claim that the Romans, not the Jews, had killed Jesus; therefore, they insured that they followed the literal letter of Jewish law, the law given to Moses…Thou shalt not kill.  Pure and simply put, this was a contract hit.
The move backfired, because after the death and resurrection of Jesus, Christianity grew at a phenomenal rate.  Soon the Christians were viewed as a threat to the Romans.  The persecution of the Christians began.  And religious persecution goes on today against many faiths.

This scenario has been repeated over and over in the history of man.  It isn’t so much religion that is the issue.  Power and money, and the quest and greed for power or money is where the problem lies.  Religion is a convenient scapegoat, as are race and ethnicity.  Such things are used as a rallying point.  Convince the masses that a particular race or religion is the source of their problem and they will rise up and follow the person who is seeking the power.  They will give their money and time to that person, all because they have been brainwashed into thinking that if the target group is eliminated, they will once again be safe and prosperous.  Nothing could be further from the truth.
Does that scenario sound familiar?  It should.  It was the tactic used by Hitler to rally those around him, and convince them to do unspeakable things in a quest for the imagined public good and self-preservation of his “kind.”  Hitler was an extremist, a hard right-winger, a psychopath, raised a Catholic and a professed Christian.  It was his intention to make the masses think his way and carry out his intentions.  Dissent was punishable by death.  He alone was in charge; his ideas were “divine inspiraton.”  He would broach no argument or questioning.  Hitler convinced an entire nation that the Jews were their enemy and that all the ills of the nation would be resolved if they were eliminated from the earth...and that it was God's will that it be done.
He was not the first to preach genocide.  He won’t be the last.  But indeed, Hitler’s reign of terror is something we should strive to avoid.  Unless someone is holding a gun to your head, why would you perceive them as a threat to you or to your way of life?  The existence of other religions, Christian or non-Christian, or other ways of living, should have no bearing on our daily lives.  Most of the threats people perceive are imagined, or they are implanted in our heads by those who wish to control us by fear.  Place a lion at one end of a field and all the sheep will run to the opposite end, even if the lion is in a cage.

There are a few things that I find threatening:  a vehicle out of control, a gun pointed at me, a single person who is bent on harming me physically; but most of all I fear those whose thirst for power and money drives them to instill fear in others.
I don’t fear people of any Christian or non-Christian faith simply because their beliefs differ from my own.  I don’t fear people who dress or act in a different way.  I don’t fear people based on the color of their skin.  I don’t fear people of other sexual proclivities.  I don’t fear people with diminished capacities or special needs.  But I am human.  I do have my likes and dislikes, though they are based on experience with individuals, not a tarring of a whole group with the same brush.
The existence of people that are different is not a threat.  Those who stir up the rallying cry to pass laws to execute gays, to legalize discrimination, to keep others from exercising their civil rights, or to deny others basic human necessities are nothing but wanna-be Hitlers, seeking power through fear and inciting those who can’t or won’t think for themselves.

Jesus walked, talked and ate with sinners.  He ate with lepers.  He associated with and counseled criminals and prostitutes.  He did not discriminate, giving his good news to everyone, not just his fellow Jews.  He fed the hungry, gave drink to the thirsty, cured the sick, gave solace to the grieving.  And he forgave everyone.  He told us to do the same.  He threw the merchants out of the temple.  He told us to pay taxes (give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s), and that applies to everyone, rich or poor.

So, on this Easter Sunday, stop and think.  If you profess to be a Christian, if you profess to have Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, then treat everyone with respect, pay your legal debts, pay your share of taxes, and act in a more Christ-like manner without complaint.

Stop listening to those who are telling you that your problems will be solved if only the civil rights of those different from yourself are taken away, if only those different from you are legally murdered, if only those different from you are targeted for beatings and criminal abuse.  That is not what we as Christians are mandated to do, or how we are mandated to act.  Those who try to convince you of these things seek only to further their own wealth and power by using you.  Their resulting wealth and power will not filter down, no matter how long you wait.
What strikes me as ironic in the extreme?  That while the supposedly anti-religious political far left seems more concerned with equality, humanity, the needs of the country and its people, and doing the right thing; the self-proclaimed keepers of morality on the extreme right are spearheading some of the most blatant, arrogant, anti-humanity, self-deferential ideas and laws since Hitler.  The Jesus I believe in would be ashamed of their actions. 

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

A Scavenger Hunt of Sorts...

I abhor those who sexually prey on children and/or young women.  I was speaking with a friend who told me that her granddaughter, a shy and introverted 20 year old, had been thrilled to get a wait staff job at a local restaurant.  Her excitement was short lived when the owner began making inappropriate sexual advances.  Needless to say, the experience did nothing for her self-esteem, much less her small steps toward a more extroverted life.  She was forced to quit out of self-preservation.
My friend was infuriated that her granddaughter was subjected to this man’s unwanted sexual advances.  That’s when she plugged his name into the Lake County Sheriff’s Department Registry of Sex Offenders.  Sure enough, this nasty man’s name and photo magically appeared.
Although the names and locations of sexual predators are public record, I won’t put his name in this blog post.  I will say that the restaurant is in Concord, less than half a mile down the road from a grade school full of kids.  I will not be giving my business to this predator.  I suggest that before you frequent your favorite Concord eatery (there are several located within walking distance to a grade school), you might want to find out who owns it and plug their name into the Lake County Sheriff’sDepartment Registry of Sex Offenders.  When you find this criminal, you too can boycott his establishment.
If you have never used the Registry of Sex Offenders, you might be surprised to find out how many there are and how close to your home they might be residing.  If you are a parent, you might want to take a minute to become more informed about the prospect of having predatory neighbors, especially if you have children or young women in your home.  

Saturday, March 7, 2015

A Living, Breathing Contradiction...that's me!

I’m a pretty darn good shot.  It’s not something I spent time practicing, just a natural talent I discovered in young adulthood.  My husband and my father were sitting on the entry stairs of my parents’ farmhouse.  Dad had tied a balloon to a log between two outbuildings about two hundred feet from the house.  Seems there was a pesky groundhog ravaging the garden, and Dad was determined to rid himself of the beast.  The critter was often seen between the two buildings, so the balloon was serving as a slightly bobbing and weaving practice target.

Jim and Dad took turns attempting to shoot the balloon.  They went back and forth numerous times, and the noise of the shots was beginning to grate on my nerves.  I walked out the door and asked what they were doing.  When they told me, I asked if I could take a turn.  They laughed at me, but I insisted.  They handed me the rifle.  I raised it to my shoulder, sited down the barrel, pulled the trigger, and killed the bobbing balloon with one shot.  I handed it back and re-entered the house, leaving the men folk a bit speechless.

That was my first taste of the shooting experience.  I have to admit, I really loved it.  Many years later in 2001, I went to Las Vegas for a seminar on the accurate depiction of weaponry in fiction.  As part of the seminar, a group called TCATT (Tallgrass Center for Advanced Tactical Training), arrived with an SUV loaded with every conceivable firearm.  On the last day of the event, we went to a shooting range and were allowed to try any or all of the weapons in the mobile arsenal.  I shot everything from a snub-nosed 22, to a Colt 45 (huge kick), to two different sizes of Glock, to automatic and semiautomatic rifles.  My favorite weapon was a bolt-action Remington 700 sniper rifle that had the most amazing scope.  I set it on a tripod and began to shoot.  I’m not sure of the exact model of 700, but it had a detachable magazine that I believe held 10 rounds, and I managed to put every one of them directly into center target at 200 yards.  I would still like to own one of those beauties!

So where does the contradiction come into play?  Regardless of how much I love to shoot, I firmly believe that all guns should be registered.  All owners should have to show evidence of training and pass a test for licensing.  And a criminal record or psychological issues should preclude ownership of guns.  This isn’t bleeding-heart liberal blather.  I have to take driver’s education and pass a driving test with a member of the highway patrol in order to get a driver’s license.  In almost every profession, proof of education and subsequent testing are required for licensure.  This is true for doctors, dentists, lawyers and numerous other professionals that we trust with our lives.  If they are found to be criminally negligent, they lose that licensing.  You can’t even get married without a license.  So what sane person would want untrained, untested, criminal, or psychologically deficient people to buy or own guns?

I have to register my car annually and get license plates.  The government is not taking away my car because it is registered.  The argument that the government will come “confiscate” your personal firearms is nothing but an ultra-conservative NRA scare tactic.  It’s time everyone realized those ridiculous statements aren’t worth the breath on which they are uttered.  

And attacking former congresswoman Gabby Giffords with death threats and classless and derogatory remarks, such as “might have to shoot her again” or “too bad the bullet didn’t end her” or “someone needs to take her out” or “my rights trump her getting shot. She’s a piece of shit” is completely out of line.  Then there are the ones that mock her speech, or question her mental capacity, such as “has anyone even heard her talk?  I question if she’s even able to complete a thought or a sentence.”  Or this lovely one “Yes she can speak but …iiitt iiiiiisss soooo haarrrd…weeee mmmust hhaaavve gggun cccontrol…is what it sounds like.  Not just a puppet, a sock puppet.  A political prop for gun control.”  HELLO!  Gabby Giffords is a gun owner, too.  She isn’t promoting a government take-back.  She’s working for responsible ownership.
I find these comments incredibly offensive, and I’m not easily offended.  I wonder if those people mock a friend or relative or returning soldier who suffers from a severe brain trauma after being shot in the head.  Gabby Giffords fought her way back from the brink of death.  She has every bit of mental power she had before, but the brain injury prevents her from smoothly articulating the words.  She went from unable to walk, to driving a car.  This woman has more guts and courage than any of those vicious, judgmental souls who seem to think they are better than anyone else and need to place blame and hate on everyone that doesn’t share their political views or religious beliefs. 

I will continue to be a contradiction…loving guns, but promoting firearm registration and abhorring those who foster hate and try to brainwash the public with their scare tactics.  It's time to ignore the 10% of extreme radicals on the right and the 10% of extreme radicals on the left.  It's time for the remaining 80% to find common ground for the good of the nation and the good of the people.  It's time to only vote people into office that will work with each other for their constituents and not sell out to big oil or big banking or the 1% that control all the wealth.  

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Making lemonade...sometimes easier said than done.

You’ve all heard that platitude “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”  It sounds rather simple and rather practical, with the proviso that you actually have a need for lemonade.  Things get a little tougher if you don’t have sugar or water to mix with the lemon juice in order to concoct this saving grace that is “the lemonade.”  Of course, attempting to solve the problem of what to substitute for the other ingredients will serve to temporarily distract you from the original issue…what to do with all the lemons.

Finding ourselves with too many lemons happens far too often in our lives.  I remember one time when it was peanut butter.  We were young and struggling with two kids and little income.  A work friend of my husband’s offered him a box of government peanut butter, and he took it without question.  He proudly hauled the 50-pound box into the kitchen and announced that we wouldn’t have to buy peanut butter for a long, long time.  I was thrilled…until I opened the box to find that the entire 50 pounds of peanut butter was encased in one, single, heavy plastic bag.

My heart dropped.  There was no way that I could store a 50-pound bag of peanut butter in my tiny pantry cupboard.  There was no way that we would ever use that much peanut butter, once opened, before it turned rancid.  The thought of attempting to even scoop peanut butter out of such an awkward package, without having it on every conceivable kitchen surface, was daunting.
Brainstorming began in earnest.  How could I preserve the tasty goo?  It was a real prize, because my husband took PBJ sandwiches for lunch almost every day, and it was a “go to” lunch for the kids on Saturdays.  It would save us a lot of money if I could figure out how to keep it.  We had purchased a chest freezer before the arrival of kids, and it housed dozens of loaves of Wonder Bread that I would buy at a discount at the Hostess outlet in a town nearby.  I also used it for freezing veggies we grew in the garden each year and to buy things ahead if they were on sale.  I had never heard of anyone freezing peanut butter, but I decided that the risk was worth the try.

We scrounged every plastic container we could find and every quart freezer bag we had left in the drawer.  Jim lifted the bag of peanut butter out of the box and laid it on the counter.  I gathered all the containers within reach, then took a pair of scissors and snipped off the tip of one corner of the bag.  Together we filled the containers as though we were milking a cow, slowly squeezing the peanut butter through the opening to fill each container and holding the cut end closed when switching from one container to the next.
It took most of the evening to accomplish the task.  I put multiple containers in the refrigerator, hoping it would stay somewhat fresh, and we made a space in the chest freezer for the rest.  I’m happy to say that the idea worked like a charm.  We had peanut butter as needed for about 18 months.  For some unknown reason, that peanut butter made the best cookies we ever had.
Life is like that.  Sometimes you just have to brainstorm for an answer and try it, even if you have no idea whether or not it will work.  Then have faith that it will.  You might be surprised at the positive outcome.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Redux - more office purging success!

Ten days since my last progress report.  Progress is the key word here.  The amount of paper removed from my office, in the form of scrap, newspaper, magazines, catalogs and other things piling up, now totals about 150 pounds.  You would think I had a hoarder’s room with that kind of number, but much of it was confined in drawers and old files I no longer needed to keep but had not yet discarded.  It is truly amazing how heavy paper can be.
My work table is now completely purged, along with a desktop utility shelf, a rolling book shelf, four of the five shelves on the computer desk, the file desk file drawer, the clutter under the work table, my rolling file and the floor to ceiling storage shelf.  I also cleaned out the rolling file, gathered all my tax paperwork for last year into one box (though it isn’t sorted yet), and filed all the paid bills and receipts for 2015 so far.

And, most importantly, I finally framed and hung the papal blessing from Pope Francis!  His is directly beneath the one from Pope Benedict.  Actually, it is pretty cool.  After all, I don’t know another person who has a papal blessing, in writing, from one pope, much less two…seems “A Mystery in the Mailbox” made an impression on both of them.

But regarding the purge, I have about 1/3 of the office to go.  I will attack that section once I sort all my tax stuff so I can get to the preparer quickly when my W2 and my 1099’s arrive.  I hereby declare that I will NOT be filing my taxes in April this year!