Tag Archives: Life

Haters gonna hate

We’re just a couple of days from Election Day and the rhetoric and vitriol is ramping up to new heights.  Candidates for every office from Governor to Dog Catcher are telling anyone who will listen why votes for the other guy are bad for everybody…while somehow never getting around to saying why votes for themselves would be good for everybody.  It’s all “Vote for me because the other candidate is anti-everything good and wholesome. ”

Decisions, decisions…

The only problem with that approach is that the other candidate is saying the same thing but from the other direction.  How are you supposed to choose?  If either one said something like, “I’ve got X number of years in government at the regional level and I did A, B and C during my tenure.”…or maybe, “I’ve got a Masters in Economics and consulted with the Treasury Department for the last however-many years.” then you’d have something you could check on to help you make up your mind.

But what we have is just finger-pointing.  Well, that and what they say they’re for or against…and how they say it.  It’s really easy to stand up and say “I’m in favor of” or “I’m opposed to” a political hot-button.  But how they say it can be very telling.

Let’s use same-sex marriage as an example.  If a candidate comes out in favor of  or opposed to same-sex marriage but can’t, or won’t, say why…or maybe just sounds kind of meh on the subject, they might be just pandering to a demographic in search of votes.  That’s pretty much standard fare from politicians.  In that case, the only thing a voter can do is look at their voting record – assuming they have one – and decide as best they can.

But there’s a type of candidate commonly found these days that will express their views in more concrete terms.  And, from what I’ve seen, those terms are usually very strongly AGAINST.  Against a whole bunch of things…and that’s fine.  This is a free Country and everyone is entitled to their own opinion.  But it hides a problem.

The problem with a lot of these candidates and their supporters is that they are not just against certain things.  They appear to actively hate those things and anyone who disagrees with them about it…which kind of flies in the face of that whole, “It’s a free country” thing.  I mean, you’re free to believe any way you want…as long as you agree with me?    That’s not the freedom I grew up with.

Us vs Them

The thing is,  when you hate like that, you generally aren’t willing to talk about it.  Certainly, I’m not seeing a lot of conversation between people trying to come to a common ground.  Hate is dividing us as a country.  This is a bad thing.

And we’re letting the haters do it to us…and that has to stop.  We need to call out any person, politician or not, who is pushing hate as a doctrine.  If someone posts something on social media espousing hate, call them out on it.  If a political candidate pushes an agenda or law that demonizes a group or a right, call them on it, preferably in public and in front of the press.  If a religious leader preaches hate for…well, for anything, call them on it even if it means interrupting church.  The last time I checked, God is love.  It seems to me that hate doesn’t have a place in any faith.

Hate is insidious.  It can sneak up on you and get hooks into you before you’re aware it’s there.  So calling out someone about their apparent hate will bring that out into the open where they have to address it  and deal with it.  What they do or don’t do at that point will often tell you every thing you need to know about that person.  If they admit to it and try to mend their ways, they may just be someone who got snuck up on.  If they deny it or try to spin it or, even worse, admit it and act proud of it, they are probably not someone you want making decisions for you and yours.

And we can’t just point it out in other people.  Remember the old saw – “Whenever you point at someone, you have three fingers pointing back at yourself.”  There’s truth in that.  You can’t expect people to change their hate if you aren’t willing to change yours.  Stop hating.  Stop using the word “hate”.  I don’t care if you’re talking about politics or brussel sprouts.  Don’t hate.  Think about alternatives.

Maybe they’re not so bad…

I used to not like brussel sprouts.  I can’t really say I hated them but I certainly didn’t like them.  They were bitter, mushy and gross.  Then I found a way of cooking them that I did like…and suddenly, brussel sprouts are on the menu in our house.  Try to face political and religious differences the same way.

Don’t hate someone because they vote or worship or marry or think differently than you do.  Look for alternatives.  Look for common ground.  If you disagree with someone on the subject of same-sex marriage, maybe you agree with them about health care…or the economy.  Find the things you agree on and use that as a foundation to build a dialog about the areas you disagree on.  And when you come up against something that you can NOT agree on, accept that fact, agree to disagree but also, agree to live and let live…which means neither of you gets to tell the other person how to live.

If they don’t think abortion is a good thing, they they are free to not get one.  If they think same-sex marriage is a sin, they are free to not be in a same-sex marriage.  If they think there are only two sexes, fine.  But no one gets to force their views on anyone else.  This country was founded on the principle that everyone is created equal…which means that everyone gets to live how they want to and no one gets to tell anyone else how to live.

This country was founded on freedom.  Freedom of religion.  Freedom from religion if you so choose.  Freedom to act and think however you want as long as you don’t hurt others.  So don’t hate.  Hate hurts.  Hate hurts us all.  If someone chooses to live a way that you don’t approve of, you have every right to not approve.  But you do NOT have the right to dictate that they live in your approved manner.  That is not freedom.  That is tyranny.  That is slavery.  That is hate.  And that is not America.

Achieving immortality

It seems like a lot of people these days are very concerned about leaving their mark on the world.  They want to make sure that when their time is done they’ll have LIVED!!!  They’ll have made a difference and the world will be a better place for them having been here.  Certainly, no one wants to shuffle off this mortal coil without leaving some evidence that they’ve existed.

Personally, I applaud this attitude.  It encourages people to push their boundaries and explore and experience new things…which hopefully has the added benefit of opening their minds and souls to the wonder around them.  Too many people don’t open themselves up to new experiences and ideas – often through fear or apathy.  The end result is that they don’t expand their minds, don’t see new things, don’t think new thoughts and end up living worthless, pre-packaged lives circling the drain of their own fears and prejudices.

The thing is, everyone wants to be the next George Washington…or Sally Ride…or Leif Eriksson or <insert name of your personal hero here>.  They want to live life bigger and grander and have adventures and become someone who will be a household name.  Someone who will be remembered.  Someone who made a difference.

But living your life with that attitude is completely forgetting (or ignoring) the fact that fame and historical significance was not necessarily something those people sought out.  In many cases it was something that they didn’t want but that was thrust upon them by a world hungry for the next big thing…or person.

It also ignores the fact that fame is fleeting and a very fickle bitch.  It’s actually not that hard to be famous.  It’s much more difficult to be famous for something good.  And it’s even more difficult to stay famous for something good.  Today’s  great adventurer is tomorrow’s mass murderer and slaver.  Today’s great athlete is tomorrow’s cheating drug user.  Today’s TV Star is tomorrow’s washed up loser.  Then there’s all the people who go out to leave their mark and vanish without a trace.  I can’t tell you about them because the only evidence they ever existed is the shattered lives of the family they leave behind.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not saying you should never go out and do something adventurous or even dangerous or that you shouldn’t try to leave your mark on the world.  But go do it for the right reasons.  It should be an accent to your life, not a substitute for it – the cherry on top of the cake, not the cake itself.

Let’s say you enjoy rock climbing.  You’re out every weekend climbing bigger, more difficult rock faces.  You decide that you want to climb El Capitan.  Go for it!  Practice, expand your skills, push yourself and when you’re ready, go climb it!  But if you’ve never climbed anything harder than the stairs in your house, deciding to climb El Capitan is at best, stupid…at worst, suicidal.

Of course, there’s another way you can leave your mark, achieve immortality and never be forgotten.  It’s very simple, absolutely fool-proof and anyone can do it.  One catch though..like most simple things it’s very difficult.  All you have to do is be the best you that you can be.

I know what you’re thinking, “But that’s so boring!  I want to explore, climb, fly, do…exciting things!  I don’t want to just be another <insert job title here>!”  Yeah, right.  You and everybody else.  But everybody can’t be the best exciting thing doer.  There can only be one “Best”.  That’s kinda what Best means.

But there’s only one of you.  And if you resolve to be the best you possible, you can do great things.  Abraham Lincoln once said, “I never had a policy; I have just tried to do my very best each and every day.”  He succeeded.  But you don’t even have to be Abraham Lincoln.  You just have to be you.  The best you.

My Father-in-Law was a meat cutter.  Not a Butcher.  A meat cutter.  Butcher was too fancy a word for him.  He worked almost every day of his life.  He married, had two kids, supported his family, paid his bills, raised his kids, worked more, paid more bills, lost his vision to glaucoma and still worked and finally died, just as he had lived, with quite, uncomplaining dignity.

Oh, he didn’t do it alone.  His wife was there by his side the entire way, sticking with him through thick and thicker.  But those few lines describes his life.  Except that they don’t.  Not.  Even.  Close.  There is so much more there than I could ever write down.  But he was at heart just a simple meat cutter from West Virginia.  A simple man from a small town…who was so respected that his funeral was almost standing room only.  Who was so loved that his family still talks about him and thinks about him almost daily.  So much so that sometimes it feels like he’s just stepped out of the room and will be back any minute.  That is achieving immortality.

And you can do it, too…from the comfort of your own living room.  Just be the best you possible.  Live, don’t exist.  Find someone to share your life with that loves you as much as you love them.  Do your job the best way you know how.  Have children.  Raise them to be better people than you are.  Don’t expect them to be clones or follow in your footsteps.  Expect them to be the best them that they can be and to find their own path.  And, most importantly, love.  Love your partner, love your children, love your life…and don’t forget to love yourself.

See, it’s simple.  And the hardest, most difficult, most challenging, most rewarding, most fun thing you can ever do.  But if you do it, you’ll make a mark.  You’ll make a difference and you’ll be remembered after you’re gone.  Do it and you’ll be immortal.

Hindsight may be 20/20 but memory is blind

Oh, the Good Ole Days.  Wasn’t it great back when a loaf of bread cost .20¢ and a gallon of gas cost .25¢?  When a new car cost less than $2500.00 and a gallon of milk cost about a buck?

That was 1960.  The year I was born.  “My Three Sons”, “The Flintstones” and “The Andy Griffith Show” all debuted that year.  Chubby Checker was doing “The Twist” and Elvis was asking “Are You Lonesome Tonight?”.  The Pirates beat the Yankees in the World Series and Floyd Patterson was the Heavy Weight Champ.  Looking back on it now – through “Wonder Years” re-runs if nothing else – it was a Golden Age.

This is the idealized image a lot of the Conservative Right holds out as how things ought to be now.  Dad coming home from his job.  Mom putting dinner on the table.  The kids playing outside with the other neighborhood kids.  A car in every garage and a chicken in every pot.  Life was simple.  Every family was a cross between Leave it to Beaver and Donna Reed.  Every dinner was a Norman Rockwell moment.

This is what the hard core Conservatives and the Tea Party say we need to get back to.  Except…

While bread cost .20¢ and gas cost .25¢ the average household income was only $5200.00/year.  So that $2500 car still cost almost half a year’s salary and a home cost around 2 1/2 years salary at $12,700.  And while Andy and Opie were goin’ fishin’, five US Soldiers were dying in a far off place called Vietnam.  5…a number that would grow to over 58,000 before everything was said and done.

The Unemployment Rate is 1960 was 7.1%.  As I write this, it’s 5.1%.  Martin Luther King, Jr. hadn’t marched on Washington yet and segregation was the rule of the day in the south.  The Bay of Pigs invasion was one year away; The Cuban Missile Crisis was two.  Oddly enough, by current standards the Middle East was actually fairly quiet and peaceful.

Single women could be refused a Credit Card by their bank although a married women could get one…if her husband cosigned for her.  In many states, women couldn’t serve on a jury because their main job was to be homemakers.  Also, women were considered too delicate to hear the more grisly parts of some court cases and it was feared that their natural sympathies would keep them from being objective in the jury room.

If a woman wanted an Ivy League education she was out of luck.  Most of the Ivy League Schools wouldn’t even admit women as students.  If a woman did get an education and got out into the work force, she generally got paid .59¢ for every $1.00 a man got paid…assuming she was white.  If she was black, take everything I just recounted and turn it up to 11….maybe 12.

Yep,the Good Ole Days.  When we had good old fashioned values like rampant sexual and racial discrimination.  And old fashioned economic times when the cost of living was, percentage wise, about the same as now.  Stronger Foreign Policy times when we were getting involved in a war that would kill more Americans that both Gulf Wars combined.  A time with the Cold Ware was in full swing and school kids watched films teaching them to duck and cover if the Commies dropped the bomb.

OK, so the 60’s weren’t all that great.  But what about the’50s!  Now there was a real Golden Age.  No hippies, no drugs, no Vietnam.  It was great!  Sure, it was.  Instead of hippies we had beatnicks.  Drugs were already a problem but hadn’t made it into the papers yet and instead of Vietnam we had Korea with 33,000+ caualties (1.2 million if you include North and South Koreans and Chinese).  Blacks and women didn’t have even the rights they had in 1960 and McCarthyism was in full swing.  What’s not to like?

Mind you, there’s a lot about the 60’s (my childhood) that I miss.  Lazy afternoons playing with my friends, long summer evenings chasing fireflies. sledding on snowy winter days and coming home to my Mom’s hot cocoa.  The thing that was so much better about that time compared to now is that I was a kid.  I didn’t have any idea about bills or unemployment or foreign policy.

It wasn’t that that stuff didn’t exist.  It just didn’t exist for me.  I was a kid.  But it did exist for my Dad and Mom.  They worried about it, lost sleep about it, prayed about it – the same way that I worry and lose sleep and pray about things now.  So, to me and other people of my generation it WAS a golden time.  But that’s the problem with getting nostalgic about the past.  You’re usually getting all misty eyed about a ‘good parts’ version and ignoring the bad stuff.

George Santayana is credited with saying, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  Learn your history…all of it and not just the ‘good parts’ or the parts that cater to your own fears and prejudices.  And when the fear mongers and hate mongers talk about going back to a simpler time, remind them about 1 Corinthians 13:11.  “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” and tell them it’s time to grow up.

Livin’ the Life

Wow!  Almost three years gone since the last time I posted anything.  It’s been a busy time.  Nothing earth-shattering has happened.  Just life.  Kinda keeps you busy if you’re not careful to keep on top of it.

And it has been busy.  Sean graduated college and moved to Pittsburgh.  James has started his Senior year of college and has moved out for all intents and purposes.  At this point, Tami and I can consider ourselves empty nesters…and we’re OK with that.

We’ve raised our sons and done a fairly good job of it – especially when you consider how unprepared we were for the whole parenthood thing.  Anyway, the boys aren’t boys anymore.  They’re men.  And pretty damn fine men if I do say so myself.  That’s not paternal pride talking by the way.  That’s a cold, balanced analysis of the facts completely unbiased by any hint of fatherly affection…and if you believe that I have a bridge I want to sell you.  Yes, I’m so proud of them it hurts sometimes.

But where was I?  Oh, yeah.  Empy nesters.  The fact is, Tami and I are really looking forward to it.  We love seeing the boys and having them visit (did I mention I was proud of them?) but we’re just fine when it’s just the two of us.  I think one of the smartest things we did was wait to have kids until we were a bit older.  It meant we were a bit more mature and better able to handle the stress of new parenthood (HAH!  see my earlier comments on belief and bridges).  It also meant that we had a chance to get to know each other and live as just us two for a while.

There’s an old saying that you marry a stranger.  And like a lot of old sayings, it’s survived because it’s true.  Tami and I have known each other since High School.  We met up again through a mutual friend a few years after graduation (Thanks, Jeff.  We owe you big!), started dating, got engaged and got married.  And neither of us had any frickin’ clue who the other person was.  Waiting a few years before we had kids helped us get over that and it’s paying off big time now.

I know couples who got married and had kids nine months later…sometimes eight or seven months.  Regardless, they jumped or were pushed right into parenthood and never got a chance to know who their partner was one-on-one.  When the kids grew up and moved out some of them were just fine.  Other got a big surprise when they found out that they didn’t have a lot in common with their partner.  It’s not an insurmountable problem but Tami and I got it out of the way years ago.  We’re just going back to how it used to be, not figuring out something new when we’re in our fifties.

So now here we are, Livin’ La Vida … whatever you call it … and enjoying the hell out of it.  We still have jobs and bills and all that but we also have each other to lean against, worry with, laugh with (and at) and most especially to love.  Life is good.

Endings, Beginnings and Lessons Learned

As I write this, it’s a little after 11:00 PM, December 31st, 2009. In about another 40 minutes this year will be over. Like a lot of people, New Years Eve makes me think about everything that’s happened this past year and everything I hope (or dread) will happen next year.

One year ago today I was in Tennessee arranging my Mother’s funeral – technically, that was 2008 but that just means that I started 2009 off by burying my Mom. This is not one of my more pleasant memories. Three months later my work contract ran out and I was unemployed. Another low spot for this year. Three months after that I started a new job with a company of VERY good repute and things were looking up. A few weeks later my wife was in Cardiac Care five hours from home and I was asking my new boss for time off. Again, not a high point. Since then, I’ve been struggling to get the bills back on an even track while paying for Sean’s current semester at College and keeping the cars running (over $1500.00 in repair bills in the last 6 months). And did I mention that our savings were gone because my work contract had been for about 40% less than I had been making and I had to pay for the bulk of Mom’s funeral?

From the bald listing of events in that last paragraph it looks like 2009 was a bad year for me and my family…and in some ways it was. But in a lot of ways it was a very good year.

Mom’s funeral was not pleasant but traveling to Tennessee allowed me to reconnect with relatives that I hadn’t seen in years. Over the years, I’ve kept moving North and my Aunts, Uncles and Cousins kept getting further and further away. Nobody’s fault really but I feel like I should have made more of an effort to go see them. The trip down for Mom’s funeral gave me that chance. I also got to drive through the town I lived in as a little kid and show my wife and sons where I had started school, learned to swim, gone to church, etc. They were very kind and showed absolutely NO indications of boredom during my trip down memory lane. I think I may have mentioned before how much I love all of them. However much I’ve said, it’s more. They were wonderful during that miserable couple of weeks and I wouldn’t have made it without them. I didn’t think it was possible but we’re closer now because of that bad time.

Having my contract run out and being unemployed wasn’t fun but did give me a short vacation (unpaid, I admit). It also ended up with me getting hired at Cutco which is a definite “Good Thing”.

Being scared out of our collective wits because of the blood clots in Tami’s lungs was terrible but again, we’re closer because of it. Plus, Tami and I have a whole new appreciation of the old phrase, “Carpe Diem”. You really learn to sieze the days you’ve got when you find out you were within 24 to 48 hours of not having any more days at all.

Even getting the bills back in order has an up side. In trimming the fat from our budget, we’ve had to re-examine the choices we make for a lot of the little things in our lives. It’s truly amazing how much cruft can sneak its way into your life (and budget) when your attention is elsewhere.

Now we’re here at the beginning of a new year. I truly hope it goes smoother than the last one. I’d like to not lose any family members. I’d like to not lose my job. I’d like to not have to visit any member of my family in a hospital. I’d like to continue to watch my sons grow into strong young men. I’d like to continue to hold my wife in my arms in the morning before I get out of bed. I’d like to continue to have epic conversations with my family on long car trips.

Right now, though, it’s time to go downstairs to the living room, tune in Dick Clark and count down the old year with my family. That way, I can start the new year hugging them and telling them how much I love them. Because of all the good and bad things that came out of 2009, of all the lessons learned, the most important one was the one I already knew…and got to learn all over again. When everything is said and done, when all the problems are solved, when all the pains are soothed, when all the joys are shared, the only thing that’s important is the people we love.

Tami, Sean, James. I love you.