Sunday, January 29, 2006

setting a good example.....

Life skills, a good work ethic, and good manners were tops in my parents teachings... and I think they did a pretty good job, now that I look back. They were grooming us to be responsible adults, as this was the most important lesson they could give us before we all flew the coop. We were taught to respect authority, lend a helping hand to neighbors, and emphasize with those less fortunate. They had no worries we would get into trouble in public, as that was just not tolerated. We were told that nobody liked brats, so we did our best not to be labeled as such, and we were fortunate for that foundation that my parents found so important in our upbringing.

In respecting authority, we were made to believe that there were rules you lived by... most of them moral, and ones that eased society to trust you. Out of respect, we learned to trust, and vice versa. It's not to say that we became "stepford children", only that respect, trust and honor are important qualities of character. With them, you set a good example, without them, you are nothing more than a common coward.

We've come to a crossroad in our judicial system that brings up the question of trust... that being the issue of whether it is illegal to wiretap conversations. We all want to trust the government to know what's best for us, the rules of the Constitution dictate that, and it's an oath that every person who enters a high level position must swear to. Lately, I'm not too sure that these people we put into position are reading the same document that we are. If they are, is it being interpreting to serve their own agenda? .... a question conspirators could write books about with our present administration.

Personally, I could care less if I were wiretapped or not. The best they could come away with is a few recipes, gardening tips, or how busy I am. But, I'm not the point. The point is the document that put this country together, our Constitution. How are we honoring are basic beliefs in a system, and cajoling other countries to the democratic process if we allow a few good old boys to circumvent the system without a proper vote from the American public.

If we want to change the Constitution, we have the ability. That was part of all the checks and balances that were put together in the first place. We have 27 amendments as proof of that. I'm not saying we should or shouldn't, it's just that the possibility exists, and the right channels are in order to do it properly. A President and his administration cannot act without it, according to our system. Last I knew, the United States wasn't considered to have a dictatorship rule, and the current administration is beginning to make me feel like it just might be.

I'm not any happier knowing that there are ten dirty bombs missing in the stockpile of dirty bombs they have inventoried, and I'm still a chicken to fly after 9/11. I wouldn't mind ridding the earth of vermin who terrorize and torture, and see some of the reasoning behind the wiretapping. But I'm not in charge, and if I were, I'd still have to follow the rules of engagement.... that's the way the democratic process works. However, we need to do it in a way that does not ally our fears, but works for the common good now as well as for the future generations behind us.

We were shaken after the events in 2001, the London, Madrid, and Bali bombings, along with countless other acts of terrorism we haven't even experienced yet. It would be nice to know where these cowards are hiding, as we all fear for our safety. After all, most people who were personally affected by these horrible acts, were just minding their own business when encountering the attacks. They were not in an official war zone, so this leads you to think that you are not safe anywhere.
That said, I feel like the current administration is using those fears to put forth an agenda that will set precedence into opening up a can of smelly worms. After reading Saurkrauts blog and taking my time to really think it over (along with discussions with many people over the subject), I came to the conclusion that we are not always smart in our voting. We have voted in idiots before, and currently we have an administration we're not too trusting with. What if somewhere down the line we elected in someone worse? What's to say they couldn't interpret the law to fit their own benefits. I think that idea scares me more.

We live in a world where we feel our trust has been betrayed; not that this isn't the first time. We need our government to show us true leadership, and something to believe in again. We are a good and decent people, and we need to show our country that we have strength in numbers. Above all, we shouldn't be enlightened enough to know how dumb we are, as it is our duty to keep all the checks and balances in order. After all, WE are our government, and it's time we realized that there is power in voting. (My suggestion as far as the voting process goes would be to rid the electoral college, and go for the highest number.... but that's another post.)

What makes our country great is the freedom to discuss these issues without fear of landing in jail as a "political" prisoner. We are fortunate for the first amendment where that is concerned. We are also fortunate that we live in a country that is not ruled by dictatorship.... but if we aren't careful in our discussions of issues, and allow the fears of a shaky administration to dictate our laws and thinking, it is only a matter of time that the building blocks of our government will crack. There is power in voting, and it's not just a privilege or a right, it is a duty.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

happy birthday, Eric!!!

Growing up with three brothers was not an easy feat being the only female sibling, but I managed to find my place and realize that they also had their place. Eric was the oldest, and the one who was "boss" of our tribe. He was the test baby of my parents.

Being the oldest carries certain advantages.... and many disadvantages, and Eric was the one who usually experienced them first. He is the one who was KING of the backyard, and dutifully told us that when it was our first venture outdoors. Since he was oldest and bigger than me, I had no real problem with his position, but did take offense when my brother Karl announced that he was PRINCE of the backyard... but that's another story.

Eric was the brother I called up whenever my mouth got me into trouble (and it did many times), hoping that he would beat up the person about to pummel me. I can remember a time when he was asked by my Mother to talk to a 5th grade teacher about a kid who kept calling me a "nazi". I was crushed by the implication, just because my last name happened to be German. Eric stood up like the dutiful brother he was, had an adult talk with the teacher, and stopped by to pick me up at my class to take me home every day after school that year. He also used to do this when I was in kindergarten. This was a nice advantage for me, but a major disadvantage for him. What boy likes to escort his baby sister around? But he held his ground.

He is also the most artistically talented one of our bunch. He could copy any art freehand, and was easily volunteered to make posters for High School when he was a senior. I always felt that he got a raw deal when he became a senior, as that was the year we moved to New Hampshire from Connecticut. It was culture shock to go from a big new High School to this farm pasture town with a ten room High School housing a total of 120 students. He took it well enough, and found that he could make friends fast when your total class was 25 or so of your peers.

A couple of years after we moved to Hew Hampshire, it was my turn to learn how to drive. My Father tried to teach me, but lost all patience when I argued too much with him. Eric was the one who took over the task, interspersed with my brother Karl, and they rallied me through the difficult job of teaching me the rules of the road. I never forgot one rule that Eric specifically taught me.... that each car had three brakes. The first one was to "take your foot off the gas"; I still follow that one today. Dispite my thickheadedness, and constantly questioning of things, he held fast, and I passed the written test as well as the road test on my first try.

So if you are reading this, Eric... know that we are sending you birthday wishes, and that your package is going in the mail Monday. I specifically am sending it late because I found the coolest card... but it was a belated card, so I couldn't send it early. Regardless, you will enjoy your presents, because I truly had you in mind when I picked them out!

Happy Birthday, big brother!

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

getting even...... a caring couple, part II

Dear Husband:

I'm writing you this letter to tell you that I'm leaving you for good. I've been a good woman to you for seven years and I have nothing to show for it. These last two weeks have been hell! Your boss called to tell me that you had quit your job today and that was the last straw. Last week, you came home and didn't notice that I had gotten my hair and nails done, cooked your favorite meal and even wore a brand new negligee. You came home and ate in two minutes, and went to sleep after watching the game. You don't tell me you love me anymore, you don't touch me or anything. Either you're cheating or you don't love me anymore, whatever the case is, I'm gone.

P.S. If you're trying to find me, don't. Your BROTHER and I are moving away to West Virginia together! Have a great life!

Your EX-wife.

Dear Ex-wife:

Nothing has made my day more than receiving your letter. It's true that you and I have been married for seven years, although a good woman is a far cry from what you've been. I watch sports so much to try to drown out your constant nagging. Too bad that doesn't work. I did notice when you cut off all of your hair last week, the first thing that came to mind was "You look just like a man!". My mother raised me to not say anything if you can't say anything nice. When you cooked my favorite meal, you must have gotten me confused with my BROTHER, because I stopped eating pork seven years ago. I went to sleep on you when you had on that new negligee because the price tag was still on it. I prayed that it was a coincidence that my brother had just borrowed fifty dollars from me that morning and your negligee was $49.99. After all of this, I still loved you and felt that we could have worked it out. So when I discovered that I had hit the lotto for ten million dollars, I quit my job and bought us two tickets to Jamaica. But when I got home you were gone. Everything happens for a reason I guess. I hope you have the filling life you always wanted. My lawyer said with the letter that you wrote, you won't get a dime from me. So take care.

P.S. I don't know if I ever told you this but, Carl, my brother, was born Carla. I hope that's not a problem.

Signed, Rich As Hell and Free.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

a night on the town......

Atlanta is a city that knows no bounds in it's expansion process. When I first moved here in 83, it was still relatively easy to get around.... growth was a part of life, but it was still in manageable stages. At that time, the population sign still read under 1 million. In the past 22 years, the sign now reads over 4 million; forest areas and rolling hills have given way to subdivisions, and malls. Financial centers, building supply stores and every store and restaurant you can think of holds some sort of residence here. We are not in short supply of too much, including the service industry. If you are in need of any type of service, there are multiple pages in the Yellow Book where your fingers can do the walking.

Due to the fact that I don't have regular working hours because I am part of that service industry, it becomes hard to schedule any outings for myself. Most parties that I go to are ones where I have to work. As a matter of fact, I have probably been to more weddings than most people, but never as a guest. Therefore, when a chance came up for me to spend a night on the town, I grabbed it.

This wasn't just any dinner and dance type evening... but rather very "hard to get" tickets to the new aquarium in Atlanta. Since the doors opened on Thanksgiving, the lines around the aquarium have circled the block at least three times. It seemed that only visiting dignitaries, city counsel and a few lucky folks could get in easier. We had decided to wait till the hub-bub of it all blew over, then venture down to see the new wonder of the city.... maybe sometime in the year 2007.

Imagine my surprise when my husband told me that his work was sponsoring a managers party at the aquarium, including a tour and buffet. He gave me a day to make up my mind, but I had the answer in one second: YES! My schedule was clear for that night anyway, so why not? Besides, it was all FREE.... my favorite word! How could I possibly turn that down.

As it became close to the night of the big excursion, we had decided that I should take the MARTA train down to the city, meet with hubby at his work, and let him drive the couple of blocks over to see the big exhibits we heard so much about. This in itself was a first for me, as I do not normally take our transit system anywhere. It stops short about 10 miles from my home, and have no real need to ride it. It's not like I could use it for work anyway.... caterers need their own vehicles.

Upon entering the station, I felt like the new kid at school. I had no idea that you don't just put the money in and get on the train. You must buy a token, and put that in the turnstyle. Ok.... that mastered in no time, I was able to board the train and be on my way. After a few stops, I came to Peachtree Center (by the way, everything is named peachtree here), where I needed to get off and find my way over to the Marriott Marquis. I was so turned around that I wasn't sure which escalator to take to go up. Asking a nice gentleman "which way to Peachtree Street?", he pointed and led me over. I looked up the escalator and realized that it went WAY up. To myself I was thinking that this is where I'd want to be when the "big one" goes off.... we were so far underground! I emerged to a bustling city, honking horns, and people rushing to move along as it was almost 5:00 pm. Making my way over to the hotel, I called hubby to let him know I was close, but not sure where the Marriott was. No answer. So again, I stop to ask two very nice bellmen at the Hyatt where I could find the Marriott. They turn around and point to the building behind them. We finally hook up, and were on our way.

Needless to say, my anticipation level at this point is very high. Woohoo! A night off combined with free tickets and dinner.... sometimes life just doesn't get any better. Upon arrival to the aquarium, we jockey for a place to park along with everyone else, and make our way to the entrance. Here is where I get a little thrown off. Before you can enter, you must go through a security checkpoint. On the table is a list of items that you cannot take in with you, which proved to be a big embarrassment for me. Not that I had any bombs in my purse, but lighters were part of the list. In my purse, I had four, along with a pack of matches. With raised eyebrows, the security gentleman looked at me and asked if I was planning to burn the place down. In my defense, I carry lighters and matches because I am a caterer and never know when I have to light off sterno for chafing pans.... but instead of going into a long explanation, I sheepishly said no, and asked if I could get them back on my way out. So on we proceed to the newest attraction the city has to offer, first making sure we know where the ballroom is, as we are both starving and do not want to miss dinner in an hour.

The aquarium is split into five sections, and not once did we experience a "fishy" smell to the place. With only an hour to see all the exhibits, we rushed through most of it, and wanted to make sure we did not miss the biggest attraction, Ralph and Norton, whale sharks who are the largest species on the planet. Finally making it over to their tank (and it was quite huge), we were able to see them swim in front of us. They were enclosed behind a very large glass pane, along with many other species of ocean voyagers. We were told that the pane of glass, which measures at least 50 feet long, was two feet thick. Looking at the fish, it seemed like they were only a quarter of an inch away. In another area that goes through the tank, you literally are walking in a tunnel with the fish swimming all above and to the sides of you..... now that was cool! It even had a moving sidewalk so that you could ponder up without bumping into other people.

There was a coral tank behind another huge pane of glass, which was the most colorful exhibition I'd ever seen. We were even able to see a king crab as large as a person in another tank. Being that this is a family-friendly aquarium, it had a petting area, where you could touch horseshoe crabs, starfish, and various other friendly sea life. I didn't see any dolphins though... and no, there wasn't any fish doing tricks for food.

So after seeing all the areas, we made our way to the ballroom and dinner. Being in the food service industry, we were curious as to the menu, so decided to scout out the buffet lines.... and there were four of them. The servers behind the lines kept urging us on to take a plate to start it off.... which is something I am most familiar with. Nobody wants to be the first to take a plate, but not me. When I'm hungry, I am not in need of being told twice to start the line. It seems like everyone else was waiting for the first person to start, and got up to follow my lead. The food was delicious.... but then when you have Wolfgang Pucks catering service doing the food, you should expect nothing less. After having seconds, I headed over to the dessert table for a few bites of chocolate filled chocolate brownies. Yummy! Topped off with a nice cup of decaf, and the top button of my pants was screaming for release.

So all in all, it was a wonderful night in the city. On the way home, hubby and I started talking about our experience. I had mentioned that I was a little disappointed that Ralph and Norton weren't as big as the news media had made them out to be. My husband said that upon first look, he thought the whale sharks we saw were just the "kids" of Ralph and Norton. I had to laugh, as I had a similar thought. Perhaps it was the pane of glass that we were seeing them through or perhaps it was the big media play-up about the aquarium itself. Regardless, it was a little bit of ocean brought to a land-locked city, and another attraction Atlanta can put in it's roster of places to go while here.
For us, it turned out to be a great way to kick-off the weekend....

Monday, January 23, 2006

old school, new times.....

Today, everything comes with a set of instructions; which I do believe are available only to confuse matters even more.... well, at least for me anyway. In reading the manuals, I find myself hopelessly lost looking for the right buttons to set, or correct plug-in spots... or anything that makes me think outside of the book. Somehow Murphy's Law applies to me whenever I try to do anything mechanical. It's information overload to me, and I'd rather just have someone else do it while I watch. Hand me food, a recipe and a pan, and I can taste it before I even start to cook it. Hand me anything mechanical, and I'm just a blubbering fool. I have to read the instructions over and over, and still have no idea what to do to achieve the results I need. Everything is mechanical, and I'm still "old school" in some areas.

My husband laughs at me because I do not carry an ATM card, nor do I have a debit card. I still write my own checks (which even the checkout guy at the grocery store pointed and laughed at me about), and still reconcile my checkbook without going online to the bank. To my defense, at least I have Quicken on my computer, and no longer have to do it by hand.... so I've achieved some baby steps there, and my checkbook is always balanced to the penny!

When I first moved to the city in 1983, a young woman was abducted in a rather affluent part of the city. Part of the journey she had to endure that night was a trip to her ATM, as they tried to rob her first. When she fumbled and couldn't remember her passcode, they proceeded to tease and torture her.... her body was found a year later in a shallow grave. This scared me to death.... literally! I just would not get an ATM card, and to this day, still don't have one. I like writing out my own checks, and find that I force myself to write down the entry (except for that little $800.00 mistake I forgot to record ONE time). It may seem a little silly and time consuming to others, but I'm comfortable with it.

If I don't know how to do something, I have no problem asking anyone I know how to do it, or if they'd do it for me. This would include anything that has to do with electricity, plumbing, carpentry, sharp objects (except knives), and gas run vehicles. Show me what to do, and I can catch on pretty quick( somewhat), but if I had to read a manual, I'd get lost immediately. Or perhaps I just get bored fast..... my mind wanders, and I can't understand why it just doesn't work when I plug it in and push the "on" button. All this extra reading is taking up valuable time! It's not that I don't like to read, on the contrary, I just don't fare well with instruction booklets. Most times they have so many steps and paragraphs and pages that just run on and on... and sometimes not "on" enough, so I am left hanging.

When I purchased my Explorer back in 2001, I was requested by my husband to read the manual that came with it. Let me start by saying that I've never even cracked the binding of it. I just looked at him and laughed to myself thinking: Like Hell! If there's no real story, or something better to read in there, you won't catch me doing anything with it but store it in the glove compartment. He's the mechanic, not me, so I make sure it is available for him to refer to when it's needed... and I can help with an oil change. This is where we differ on issues. He can make heads and tails of the meanderings, but would forget where he set the book down; I can't decipher the book, but know where he left it.

Even my cell phone is nothing fancy. It does not take pictures, text message, or do anything other than make and take phone calls.... although I do like the feature that allows me to plug in phone numbers, saving me the time of dialing. Only problem is, the directions on how to do it have long since left my mind, and I'd have to read the instruction booklet to revise any new entry's. At this point though, I'm just relieved that I have a phone for emergencies and will leave it at that.

Maybe one day I'll rebel against my angst of all the technology "editing" and update the phone, read the Explorer manual, and go online to do banking. I will have to make sure I have someone around me that can show me the steps so I can take notes for the future forgetfulness I know I will encounter. Although I know I am too young to have "senior moments", I am beginning to experience them in my 40's.... or perhaps it's all this information overload with way too much to remember.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

venus vs mars.....

During the 70's a boom of Equal Rights for Women was the battle cry of most females. It mostly pertained to wages being level for the same jobs amongst the sexes. That was pretty fundamental, and I agreed that pay scales should be the same, no matter who did the job. However it took on a life of it's own and became one of those situations where the sexes differed on the definition of jobs. We didn't work so hard to get the bill passed so that we could take over every aspect of every job out there.... but if we qualified, why not allow us to do it, and get paid the same as well.

This may seem old-fashioned and sexist, but there are still some things that I do believe are a man's job and women may pull out the "sex card" in order to scam it off on them. This would include any dead animal that took it's demise in our yard. Since I can become overtaken immediately by little carcasses left laying around by the neighbors cat, I have deemed it my husbands job to get the shovel out and dispose of the little bodies. It's not that I would faint, but I do feel the rumblings in my stomach that let's me know I need to visit the porcelain king soon.

Another job I've turned over is climbing on a high ladder up to the roof. It's not that I'm afraid of heights, just that I need more protection than air around me to feel safe. Put me into a glass enclosed elevator, and my nose is pressed up to the window to look out, ladders are another matter entirely. One wrong move, and it could be curtains; it's all I can think of while up there.
Luckily my husband is part carpenter, and has no problems with it that I know of. He did suffer a bad fall well before I knew him, missing a spike that could have impaled him. After a brief visit in the hospital, he was back on the job site, and back up the ladder. Me, I'd rather be the spotter. Not that I could do anything but make him feel somewhat comfortable that I'm holding the ladder steady.... but if he fell, well, it's not like I could catch him or anything.

I have no problems doing the yard work, and actually enjoy mowing the grass (when I have it to mow). Nor do I shy away from painting, pounding nails, trimming and pruning, or most manual labor.... as long as it's on the ground, or close enough to it. When it comes time to clean gutters though, I'd rather rake up the mess. There's too many moving parts to the task for me to be comfortable up on a ladder. Again, this becomes a "mans job" in my book. I'm much better with the clean-up end of the job.

When it came time to teach our son how to drive, I took him out to parking lots and let him ride around getting the feel of the engine, wheel, gas pedal, and most importantly, the brake. When it came to surface streets, I turned it over to my husband.... again deeming it his job, as his nerves are more stable than mine. It's not to say that we didn't try it once, thereby having me make the decision it was best to have his father take over. I wasn't a wreck doing it, but knew I wasn't doing any good at being his co-pilot because he argued over my techniques and it threw me off in my teachings. It was best for me to step down and consider it a "mans job". I'm glad I did, as my son is a good safe driver and still can't understand why his insurance rates are three times that of ours. Welcome to life, we told him.

There is one area where I know my skills as a woman come in very handy.... other than being the maid, housekeeper, and laundry queen. It would be in asking for directions. Why is it that a man will go into a store and look all over for a particular item; or drive 50 miles out of their way because "the exit has to be here somewhere"? I don't like to waste my time on either adventure. If I am looking for an item offered in a sale flyer, I go straight to customer service and ask them where in the store they have it displayed. On the road, I will stop at a service station or convenience store to ask directions. Better yet, I will have brought the phone number with me and give the party a call to set me straight. To me, that's just simple deduction and time saving so I can get onto the next hundreds tasks I've lined up for myself that day.
I once asked my brother why men would go so far out of their way when a simple stop and ask would suffice. He answered that it was a possibility it would make men look foolish, as whatever they were asking for would most likely be right in front of their faces. I answered back: Yeah, so???? Because I just didn't get it. I've done it a million times, and never feel foolish. Heck, most of the time I just laugh it off telling the clerk that if it were a snake it would have bit me, and go on my way. No red face of embarrassment here.

So in the years that "we have come a long way baby", some things still remain the same. Men are from Mars, women from Venus, and the planets have their own rules they live and work by.
The point which we all forget, is that when we work together the lines blur enough so that the tasks even out. Getting monetary or personal satisfaction equally, should blur the lines as well.
Just don't look for me with that shovel of a dead critter... that is my husbands job.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

the teachings of a nonviolent minister......

A long time ago, when I was a little girl, my father taught at a school for deaf and disabled children. Being that he had a friendly outgoing personality, he often invited his fellow teaching associates over for weekend barbecues and dinners. One such woman was a black teacher. Her name was Helen Young and she was from Gary, Indiana. She was a professional in her field, and had a personality to match my fathers.... as well as the nicest laugh I'd ever heard.

One night when she was over for dinner, it was my bedtime, and I made the customary rounds of saying goodnight to my parents.... complete with hugs and kisses. There stood Helen, ready to shake my hand, when I reached over and hugged and kissed her as well. The surprise on her face was priceless. Where she came from, little white girls did not do such things. They were told it was not proper. What did I know? I was a little girl who grew up with no predjudices, as they were not allowed in our home. My parents were adamant that a person was not judged on the color of their skin, but rather the content of their character.

This happened during the 60's when the country was embroiled in the civil rights movement, and my father kept his eye on the news stories of the times. He wept when he witnessed fire hoses and dogs turned on black people for standing up for their rights as people. No man should ever have to be exposed to the hate and violence lashed upon them by people who were ignorant in their beliefs that black people were degenerate, he once told me. All men should be ashamed for their acts that day.

It was very shortly after this that Dr. King was assignated. Here was a Reverend, a preacher of non-violence, and a voice for all races to put aside differences in order to heal the wounds of discrimination and injustice. He had his faults, of which J. Edgar Hoover compiled a file on, but no less a man with a word for peace for all mankind.

During the first march in Memphis, which failed miserably, Dr. King left the demonstration and Memphis as well. When questioned about his leave, he answered that he always said he would not be any part of a "violent" demonstration, of which it had turned into. In finding out later, some people were paid to start up the violence, including some people who were part of the march. This sickened him, and he decided to return back to Memphis to "do it right this time". Because this was a march in support to the garbage workers of Memphis who had gone on strike, he felt his presence was necessary.
After taking quite a bit of heat for speaking out against the Vietnam conflict, demonstrations that erupted violence, and a somewhat dwindling crowd at the Mason Temple that night, Dr. King was exhausted. He asked Ralph Abernathy to speak for him. When Abernathy arrived at the temple, he summoned King on the phone to come down, his presence was most definitely necessary. King promised to hurry down. It was on this night that he made his famous and last speech. It was his Mountaintop sermon. The very next night, deciding if the weather was a little chilly and to bring coats while he was standing on the balcony of his hotel room , a shot rang out, and Dr. King lay on the landing. It was as if the prediction in his sermon had rung true.

That very night, Robert Kennedy was campaigning, and had to pass the news on to the crowd his was in front of. His compassion, empathy, and suffering the same experience in his own family, allowed the crowd to disburse without demonstrations or violence. Everyone just went home to mourn in their own way. Many other cities and towns did not fare as will that particular night. Within a month, eight shots rang out, and Kennedy's voice was quieted as well. The 60's fizzled into the disco 70's.

Dr. King was a man who had his own demons, like any man. His file from Hoover contained secrets the family has had to bear, especially the news of his many mistresses. It was an embarrassment, but somehow it does not tarnish the charisma of his speeches or words.
We may not like some of the nasty news we hear about him, true or not, but we should never forget the good things he accomplished in his short life. The Nobel Peace prize was not handed to him because he marched for peace... he was instrumental in pushing through the bill for the Civil Rights Act, which was no easy task when the President was a Texan southerner.

Today, January 15th, is the true birthday of Dr. King, but we will celebrate it tomorrow so that we can have a day off from work. In the meantime, many problems are erupting at the King Center in Atlanta, and Coretta Scott King is recovering from a stroke she suffered. Some of the original followers and shakers of the close group around Dr. King have presented their own agendas ahead of the teachings of their leader. The movement has taken on a different direction. And in the words of Andrew Young, the movement just fell apart after Bobby Kennedy died. The best we did as a nation was to honor Dr. King with a national holiday, the worst... not to carry on the words of non-violence in our convictions.

We may never know how many good things were in store for us, we can only speculate and hope it would have be good...... if only we had the time to find out. But then that's the beauty of hindsight as we can see the mistakes that occur in life.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

fighting the good fight......

A long time ago I used to work for a large grocery chain located in the burbs of Atlanta. It was a good stepping stone for me until I eventually realized what I wanted to do for a real job. At the store I had a wonderful manager who took me under her wings and pushed me past the limits of what I thought were my abilities. Her name was Inga, and she was every bit of the feisty and fair person I needed to adopt me and teach me new heights. One day, Inga and I were discussing food orders and job chores when another one of my associates came up to us. He didn't feel it was fair that he had to go around our food court and empty the waste baskets. To my surprise, Inga let him off the hook and engaged someone else to do the duty. When I asked her about it later and said that I would have demanded him to do said duty, she replied: "Sometimes you have to choose your battles, dear". I didn't quite understand it fully at the time, and was about ready to slap the guy upside his head in my own defiance, but just let the matter drop.... but not the advise.

Recently, I have come to realize that those words are golden. During this past week, I have been embroiled in a war of words with some people attacking my nephew on his blog. Without going into all the details, I would like to send you to his site to read all that has been going on.
It shouldn't be a funny thing to read about, but it is because it has gotten so far out of hand by a few individuals.... hence making it a hilarious, but scary read. His address is: . You would have to read the post "11:00 news", then "Am I Being Unfair?"... although there is a link on Unfair to read the original post.

What started as a somewhat harmless post, then forgotten, has turned into monster that keeps growing and growing. Somehow my comments on it have gotten quite a bit of attention as well, as several people have wished me harm or called me unspeakable names. Geez... little old me, and so much attention! The best part is that my nephew has taken off any links to other sites, so as to have it all contained to his site. This turns out to be for safety reasons... as it is quite heated and laden with threats.

So at this point you are probably wondering why I continue when the threats are a bit scary.
Well for one reason, we're talking family here.... need I say more? The other reason is because I like a good fight. By good, I am referring to a fight where I know I'm right in my convictions without resorting to profanity, name calling and smoke-screening the facts. Yes, I do have a bad habit of swearing... but I keep 99% to myself, and never comment on anyone's blog using it.
I try to stick to the facts by not calling people names or threatening their lives in order to get my point across. To me that is the mature road to take. So knowing that I am keeping my head, staying calm, cool and collected, is making this a good fight for me..... besides, if I look past all the profanity and mentally picture the person mouthing off, I have to laugh.

Dailymess has been asked by a concerned anonymous friend to remove the posts, but I'm not sure what my nephew will do. It took over 50 comments on one post, and 14 on the second one, which bounced his blog into Google search results.... making number 9. With those numbers, he says he has never had a better relationship with google than now.

I hope you will all have a chance to read it soon and come to your own conclusions. And before I forget.... if you have eyes that bleed, this is not a post you will want to read. The comment section is riddled with a ton of profanity.... and a good amount is lashed at me, but mostly my nephew. Happy reading, y'all!

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

happy birthday karl!!!!

I wanted to post something a little different today, because it is my brothers birthday. He deserves no social commentary from me, only best wishes for a great day and a bright happy year. Karl is one sibling up from me on the roster of our family tree.... and like all good brothers, of which I have three, he has been one who soothed over various boo-boos in my life.

Back in 1998, our father was in the depths of dementia. I had called Dad to talk to him because I missed his voice. For the life of me, I couldn't get over the feeling that Dad no longer knew who I was. When I mentioned this to Karl, he assured me that of course Dad knew me, why he even mentioned that he had spoken to me. This is Karl's way of making me feel better and a little less sad. He sat next to me at the funeral and held me while I let the tears flow. No question in my mind that he is a rock.... and always had been in times when no one else was around to ground me.

I did disappoint him years ago with a certain boyfriend, who he knew was garbage. Since he could not talk ANY sense into me (nor could anyone else), he let it go, but was right there when the break-up came.... once again the rock who held my hand and saw to it that I would be alright. I already knew I was going to be alright, it was just nice to know he didn't hold my poor decision making against me. He never even said anything to me when I wanted to reconnect my relationship.... although I could see the caution in his face.

Living in Connecticut, then New Hampshire, we traveled through school together in the same grade from 4th grade on. Many people thought we were, just a poor slight of fate for him. He was gifted with a great personality, but school was not his forte' at the time. My father never pushed Karl in academics, and once told me that Karl's future was destined for some sort of military service. Dad must have had a long talk with him, for upon graduation, Karl went into the Coast Guard and used his service time to become a navigator. Here was a person who was as bad at math as myself, learning to read charts and navigate by the stars. He put in his years of service, even going to Harvard in his spare time, and still to this day is on reserve duty.

Karl is the person my Grandparents also depended on when the rest of us all got married and moved away, then had families. He lived in Boston, which was very close to where they lived, and was able to attend to their needs if they ever called him. I remember one visit I made up north in 1985. At the time, I was visiting because my best friend was getting married and I was the "matron of honor". Since the bride also was in our high school class, she invited Karl to the wedding as well. After it was all over, I drove back with Karl to Boston and stayed with him for a few days. At the time, I didn't realize I was pregnant, but remember being very sick and cranky. (First month will do that to you.) Karl thought it was a great idea to visit our Grandparents while I was there.... only problem was, a hurricane was brewing and headed for New England. We had to wait it out before we made the trek over to Cambridge to see them, and I complained the whole way back, because we could not find a taxi that would bring us. Karl..... what a trooper he was, he just let me steam off, and never said anything to shut me up. By the time we got back to his apartment, even I was sick of me. But that's the kind of guy he is with me.... always protective, always the rock.

I could tell you many stories of his antics, but I know that some of them are state secrets, and I would embarrass the heck out of him.... so suffice it to say, I am a lucky sister, and I know it. I have a wonderful family, even if we don't see each other often due to logistics. But one thing I know, I can pick up the phone anytime I want to and hear a friendly voice on the other it any of my brothers who I talk with. For that, I am truly blessed.

Happy Birthday, Karl.... you are one in a million, and I am lucky to be related to you.

Friday, January 06, 2006

randomly assigned......

One of the scariest situations we face in America today is the plight of our waning medical system. If you belong to a company that offers benefits, you have a better chance than most people of receiving the care. If not, you are almost left to your own designs to find some measure of coverage on your own; but with costs that they are, most people will sacrifice coverage if they have to pay for it independently. There are a few systems in place, such as medicaid and medicare, that will pick up these costs if you are elderly or can prove that you are poor or handicapped. All others can only hope that they stay reasonably healthy.

Well.... starting on the 1st of this year, our government has redesigned the medicare system. Since it is already a perplexing predicament, they decided they needed to go one step further to make it more confusing by going to their own private plans. All patients have been reassigned by the government to this new drug plan... that may not cover some of the medicines these people are currently taking. Our government is not worried though as they said they will fill those prescriptions no matter what drug plan anyone is in, or whether people have already been contacted of their reassignment.

Ok, maybe this is a good step in the right direction. Maybe this will weed out the non-deservers, but in the meantime, it puts a great strain on the people who truly depend on their medications to keep them alive. Apparently the nursing home officials and pharmacy groups say they do not foresee a doomsday situation, but consumer advocates fear that the drug plan will cause some trouble, given the nature of the forty percent out there who are mentally or cognitively impaired. This is within good reason as the new benefit has been plagued by widespread confusion about the details. You see, certain people have dual eligibilities with medicare and medicaid. Not all of these people were assigned a plan prior the change, although (in their favor) millions were. For the few who have slipped through the cracks, this could be their worst nightmare.

How this all works is a minor miracle in itself. You see, many people do qualify as dual eligibles. While they may receive help from the providers to help them choose the correct plan (and there are many), they essentially have to pick a plan that will cover the specific medications they are on. People without cognitive ability to enroll themselves have to depend on a family member or guardian to make these arrangements for them. If they do not have a person in line to make those decisions for them, the state takes control. And we all know how fast the state works, don't we? What worries healthcare providers is patients being delayed their necessary medications while the system works out the bugs. It puts tremedous pressure on nursing homes as well as pharmacies. Because of these random assignments, it is a possibility that some patients may find themselves enrolled in a plan that isn't covered by the particular pharmacy they purchase from.

Ok, are you quite confused now? Well, let's add some numbers in there to get a real perspective on the situation. As it stands now, there are some 42 million people nationally who depend on the Medicare system. They have a total of 82 plans to choose from. (My plan from Kaiser had maybe 20, and I was tired of reading after the first 3). What worries the Medical Right Center is that even with a 99% success rate, some 60,000 people will suddenly be without the medications that they need to survive.

I'm not knocking the redesign, I only agree with what the administrators of facilities are worried about, which was not allowing the system to have a little more time to make everyone ready for this. Well, yes, every new system looks good in theory, it's when it is put into it's practical use that the "bugs" surface. One good piece of news is that nursing homes, by law, must provide medicines that patients need, even if they are not covered. One bad piece of news is for the people who are not in a nursing home. While these bugs are being worked out, some people will not receive their necessary prescriptions and there could be a run on hospital emergency rooms where nurses and personnel will have to become social workers for each individual coming through the doors.

So my point.... If you have a family member in this type of situation, look after the matter to help them through it. You can call 1-800-Medicare or consult for more information. As confusing as it is, it is a system put in place that one day we will all face. It's not much, and perhaps not even a great system. We all know that Europe and Canada have a free healthcare system, but at least we have something until the next redesign comes along.

As a post-script, and not too far off the subject. If you know a child, sick or not, with parents that cannot afford healthcare, check into your local county health departments. They can provide services that would cost a fortune in a doctors office. My son received all of his innoculations from the county health department, thereby saving me tons of money, and him from mumps, measles, and all the other childhood diseases. You cannot even enroll them in school or college until their immunization sheets are filled out these days.
If you know a child who does suffer cancer, St. Judes Hospital should be contacted. They will not turn away any child for any reason, including financial hardships. It is a noble and worthy foundation, and one I have supported for years. Their address is: .

We may not have a lot in place, but we do have a few things. It is to our advantage, and the future of our off-spring to know all we can, if ever faced with the possibility of what to do.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

hope in a distant land.....

One story that seemed to grab my attention this past weekend was the outpouring of hope for a little girl born in Iraq. She is three months old and born with a severe spinal cord defect. An innocent child represents all that is good with the world, but this one was born amidst the ugliness of a war that is so random in it's victims. You see, Noor's spinal cord was not fully closed when she was born on September 23. There is a pinkish cyst-like growth that continues to form on her back as a result of her spinal cord not forming naturally during her Mother's pregnancy. Doctors in Iraq had given her no hope of survival.

This hasn't stopped the soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 121st Infantry Regiment's Charlie Company of Georgia from trying. They have taken to adopting Noor. They were on a routine search in December looking for suspected insurgents in the area, when instead they found this beautiful baby girl born to young parents who had also accepted the defect as the will of Allah.

Most of the troops who have been deployed to this area are all young fathers themselves, and to them, Noor, was something good they could do if they could make arrangements to send her overseas to receive the necessary surgery to repair her spine. It is said that she may never be able to walk, regardless... but she may be able to live a healthier life than to be left behind in a country that is still without medical supplies or knowledge of such surgery.

To quote Moni Basu of the Atlanta Journal/ Constitution, who covered the story in Iraq:
"After seven months of grinding urban warfare, Charlie Company soldiers had found a child who reinvigorated their purpose here. Getting Noor to the United States for treatment was a mission that would help them sleep well at night--at least for a night. Someone here at Camp Liberty asked me why the US media were making such a big deal out of one baby. There are, after all, thousands of other Noors in Iraq who desperately need assistance. Their stories may never get told. Perhaps Noor's story did, not for the sake of the child, but for all the other lives she has touched in the most profound of ways. Noor, whose name in Arabic means 'light', stole our hearts and, even if for just a moment, took away the darkness in our lives".

What a beautiful story this is, and to come out of one of the world's most unlikeliest of places. We sit somewhat vigilant in front of our newscasts to hear stories of more soldiers killed, suicides bombers striking the most innocent of victims, and parents on both sides that wonder if it will all come to an end. To see a beacon of "light" shine through it, perhaps gives us reason to believe that our future depends on the generation behind us. If we can wallow through the murk and ugliness to make a future worthy of living in, perhaps we can find a way to bring some peace to an area who's ideals may differ from us, but not so much that they feel it necessary to terrorize our way of life. We, in return, can make it necessary to shed our notion that we are the "worlds police". It's a big step.

Poor Noor, she will probably never get to take the physical steps we enjoy everyday, but her story has taken a big step to setting aside differences long enough to realize that she is a miracle child. She never should have lived this long in the scope of her illness. A little prayer offered to her recovery from surgery is a prayer for all of us.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

rumblings from the sky.....

When you think of Atlanta, it never quite includes some of the wacky weather that you see other parts of the country endure. We do not get the lingering cold snaps that last for months, or snow blizzards. This is perhaps one of the reasons why I decided to move to this part of the country. I was easily convinced that not owning a snow shovel was a good thing. But then, that was my reasoning back in 1983.... I was under the impression that the weather was always mild, sunny and warm; and for the most part, it is.

Yes, we have had a few snow storms since I've been here, but not more than a few, and usually they melt down within a day. Ok, I can live with that. At least I still haven't felt any real need to go out and buy a shovel. Besides, the whole city has a habit of shutting down as everyone is in the same predicament, and the plows the city owns are few themselves. They are put into production only once in awhile, so what is the need to have too many?

We do have our share of tornado warnings though, and even a whole season dedicated to keeping an eye out for the ferocious monsters to strike. That season is generally spring, when a watchful lookout to the sky can become one of the first measures you can take to keep yourself safe from being whisked off. Of course, a watchful eye on the weather channel and local news becomes a standard with which you live in as well. They are hard to predict if still in their mass form, so one needs to know the sound they produce, which at that moment might be a tad too late to do anything about it. You always see the people who have survived these on TV after the fact, and the one unified statement that comes from them all is "it felt like a train was coming through the back yard". That's a pretty accurate statement, as I've felt my share, and been through enough to recognize that this wasn't ordinary weather.

The first real sign to look for is the murky green-gray atmosphere of all these charged ions. It is real creepy as the animals have the first link to what's going on and tend to get real quiet as they hunker down. The only real noise you hear is the wailing of the town sirens. By that point, you know that you'd better be heading to the basement to wait out what might be a false alarm or a full fledged hit. Having the local news on at the time will have you listening to the weatherman warning of where they have recorded touchdowns and areas next in line for the assault. I have a TV in my basement, and watch it faithfully during these times.... feeling like it's never too safe to be informed.

Somehow, my little town, just north of the big city, is like a void area that hasn't suffered any direct hits, but only the sirens of anticipation. Everywhere around me has been affected, and in some cases damaged. Grand oak trees have uplifted themselves by the roots, as if trying to escape the winds, and tall pines are snapped in two, not able to withstand the forces of bending so far over by the same pressures against them. It almost looks like a tall drunken giant was trying to make a trail through the landscape. The after-effect is truly devastating.

Ok, so that being said, spring is a wonderfully beautiful month in this area. Flowers have been sprouting since the first moments of warmth, trees are budding with their clothing of leaves, and everyone is thankful that you can spend more time outdoors. So imagine my exclamation when I heard the local news yesterday warn of impending tornados for the area. What??? This isn't spring.... or did I pull a Rip Van Winkle? We aren't supposed to be worrying about this for a few months. But then I remembered that we aren't supposed to worry about hurricanes either.... and look what's happened to us in the past two years. We were struck by four of the hurricanes that hit in 2004, and two from 2005. Aren't we a little too far inland for that? Apparently not.
I guess it shows me that not everything is as it was... and there is not too much that is predictable in the scope of the weather patterns. At least we still are not experiencing blizzards of the winter fashion.... but who knows, it may be the next "change" we will all have to become accustomed to. Hopefully not, as I still don't want to buy the shovel if I can help it.